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Shoulder Pain Causes

Shoulder Pain Causes

The shoulder is essential for day-to-day activities and movements. Unfortunately, shoulder pain can limit your range of motion and impact your daily life. Understanding the causes and symptoms of shoulder pain can help you identify issues and treat them promptly.

This article delves into the causes of shoulder pain, home remedies, and when to see a doctor. We also explore how physical therapy Amityville, NY, can help treat and prevent a recurrence of shoulder pain.

Causes of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain causes range from rotator cuff injuries to overuse. Understanding these causes is crucial for effective treatment and management. Some common causes of shoulder pain include the following;

Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff comprises four muscles and tendons surrounding and stabilizing the shoulder joint. An injury to the rotator cuff is one of the causes of shoulder pain at night. Rotator cuff injury can cause a dull ache in the shoulder. Usually, this ache might worsen at night. Overuse, trauma, or aging commonly causes rotator cuff injuries, leading to shoulder pain.

Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

A frozen shoulder occurs when the shoulder joint becomes stiff and painful. Scar tissue formation and inflammation cause a frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder is present with persistent pain and stiffness, limiting range of motion and making it difficult to carry out your daily tasks.

Tendinitis and Bursitis

Tendinitis and bursitis are inflammatory conditions. While tendinitis is the inflammation of the thick fibrous cords attaching the muscle to the bone, bursitis is the inflammation of the small fluid-filled sacs cushioning the tendons. Symptoms of bursitis and tendinitis include redness, tenderness, and swelling of the shoulder. Tendinitis and bursitis often result from overuse, trauma, or repetitive movements.

Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement occurs when the rotator cuff tendons or bursa become compressed between the bones of the shoulder. Over time, this is what causes shoulder pain between shoulder blades, particularly when raising the arm. Shoulder impingement is present with weakness in your arm and pain at night, which can affect your sleep.


Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can affect the shoulder joint, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. Osteoarthritis involves wear and tear of the joint cartilage. This condition leads to pain while moving or after moving your shoulder. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that leads to joint inflammation. This condition is present with headaches, swelling, stiffness, and a dull or throbbing ache.

Fractures and Dislocations

A fall or trauma can cause fractures in the bones of the shoulder, such as the collarbone (clavicle) or the upper arm bone (humerus). Dislocations occur when the bones of the shoulder joint are forced out of their normal positions. Fractures and dislocations can impair your mobility, causing severe pain.

Nerve Injury

Nerve injury is one of the leading shoulder and arm pain causes. It occurs when there is damage to the network of nerves in front of the shoulder. Shoulder nerve injury, or brachial plexopathy, can result in pain, numbness, and tingling.

Referred Pain

Referred pain occurs when there is a problem in other parts of the body, causing pain to radiate to the shoulder area. Abdominal issues like pancreatitis and pelvic problems like a ruptured ovarian cyst can cause referred pain in the shoulder.

Overuse and Poor Mechanics

Repetitive motions, such as those involved in certain sports or jobs, can lead to overuse injuries. In addition, poor posture during activities can also contribute to shoulder pain. These repetitive motions and improper body mechanics can cause friction in the shoulder tendons, leading to irritation and inflammation.

Symptoms of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can manifest in different ways. Recognizing the accompanying symptoms can help you identify the underlying cause. Common symptoms of shoulder pain include the following;

Dull or Sharp Pain

You may experience varying degrees of pain, ranging from a dull ache to sharp, stabbing sensations. In addition, the pain may be constant or occur with certain movements.

Limited Range of Motion

Shoulder pain often leads to difficulty moving the arm in certain directions. This limited range of motion can impact your daily activities, including lifting or reaching overhead.


Shoulder pain is present with muscle stiffness and tightness, especially when you wake up in the morning or after periods of inactivity. However, with frequent movement, this stiffness may gradually decrease.


Shoulder pain can lead to muscle weakness in the affected shoulder. This weakness might be noticeable when attempting tasks involving lifting or carrying objects.


Inflammation of the shoulder joint or surrounding tissues can cause visible swelling, warmth, and redness. You may notice swelling after an injury to your shoulder.

Radiating Pain

Shoulder pain can radiate to other parts of the back, especially the arm and neck. Radiating pain often occurs when nerve injury or compression is the cause of shoulder pain.

Clicking or Popping Sensations

You may notice clicking or popping sensations within your shoulder joint when moving. These noises can sometimes accompany the pain. Shoulder pain present with clicking or popping sounds often results from arthritis.

Home Remedies for Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can range from mild to severe. Your doctor will assess the pain in severe or persistent cases and prescribe appropriate treatment. However, you can manage mild shoulder pain at home with the following remedies;

Rest and Ice

Avoid activities that worsen the pain by allowing your shoulder to rest. You can also apply ice to the affected area for about 15-20 minutes every few hours to reduce inflammation and numb the area for temporary relief. Avoid using an ice pack directly on your shoulder to prevent frostbite. Instead, wrap the ice pack in a towel and apply it to the affected area.

Heat Therapy

Applying a warm compress or taking a warm shower can help relax your muscles and alleviate stiffness. Heat therapy can be particularly effective before performing gentle stretches or exercises.

Gentle Stretches and Exercises

Although rest can help relieve shoulder pain, total inactivity can worsen the pain. Engage in gentle stretches and range-of-motion exercises to maintain flexibility and prevent stiffness. However, avoid overexerting yourself. Instead, start with simple stretches and progress as your comfort allows.

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

Non-prescription pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce pain and inflammation. However, consult your doctor before using any medication, especially if you have underlying health conditions.


Poor posture is a significant cause of shoulder pain. Maintain good posture, especially when sitting at a desk or using electronic devices. Also, adjust your workspace to minimize strain on the shoulders.

Topical Analgesics

Over-the-counter creams or gels containing menthol or capsaicin can temporarily relieve the sore shoulder area.

When Should You See a Doctor for Shoulder Pain?

Although home remedies can help with mild shoulder pain, you must seek medical attention in certain situations. Your doctor can properly diagnose and treat underlying issues. You should consider seeing your doctor if you experience any of the following;

Severe Pain

Intense shoulder pain may limit your ability to perform even simple daily activities, which is a sign of an underlying issue requiring prompt medical attention. In addition, if your shoulder pain persists for more than 2 to 4 weeks, despite home treatment, visit your doctor immediately.

Signs of Infection

Redness, warmth, swelling, or pus around the shoulder joint is a sign of infection. If you notice these signs, seek medical attention immediately to prevent complications.

Recent Trauma

Visit your doctor if your shoulder pain follows a recent injury, fall, or accident. Trauma can lead to fractures, dislocations, or soft tissue injuries.

Radiating Pain

If the pain radiates down your arm or up into your neck, it could indicate nerve compression or other related issues that need medical attention.

Numbness or Tingling

If you experience numbness, tingling, or a "pins and needles" sensation in your arm or hand, along with shoulder pain, this could signal nerve injury or compression. Your doctor can assess and diagnose the condition.

Underlying Health Conditions

Certain medical conditions, like diabetes or autoimmune disorders, alongside shoulder pain, can increase the risk of complications. Inform your doctor of your health issues during diagnosis.

Shoulder Pain Treatment

Physical therapy in Merrick, NY offers a comprehensive approach to treating shoulder pain. Your Merrick physical therapists will assess the severity of the pain, the underlying cause, and your needs. Treatment for shoulder pain Merrick includes a customized treatment plan for your specific condition. The treatment plan may consist of one or more of the following;

Corticosteroid Injections

Your doctor may prescribe a corticosteroid injection for your shoulder pain. These injections may reduce pain. Having more than two to three injections in your shoulder is not advisable to prevent joint damage. Consequently, keeping a pain journal to track how effective the injections are and if you need other treatment forms is essential.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy for shoulder pain involves several techniques to alleviate pain, restore range of motion, and prevent a recurrence. Stretches, exercises, and manual therapy are some physical therapy techniques used to address shoulder pain. In addition, your specialist at Summit Physical Therapy will educate you on the best posture to prevent shoulder pain.


Surgery is often the last resort for addressing shoulder pain. Your doctor will prescribe this treatment if other methods fail. However, even if you undergo surgery, physical therapy is still needed to help you recover faster and restore mobility.  


Because shoulder pain can impact your life, treating it is essential. You can try home remedies for mild shoulder pain. However, seek medical attention if your pain persists and is severe. Your physical therapist at Summit Physical Therapy will assess your condition and develop a tailored treatment plan to address your needs. Besides treatment, you will be educated on proper posture and body mechanics to prevent a recurrence of your shoulder pain.

Summit Physical Therapy