Understanding Shoulder Pain

Your shoulder is the most mobile joint in your body and this mobility may also make your shoulder more prone to injuries. Your shoulder has four tendons called the rotator cuff that allow it to have such a wide range of mobility. Your doctor defines shoulder pain as any pain around your shoulder joint.

What are the symptoms of shoulder pain?

If you’re suffering from shoulder pain, one or more of these symptoms may be familiar:

  • A dull pain deep in the shoulder
  • Pain triggered by raising the arm or reaching forwards or backwards
  • Swelling
  • Pain when lying on the affected shoulder
  • Reduced mobility or stiffness

What are the causes of shoulder pain?

You may have experienced the most common cause of shoulder pain – a condition where the tendons of the rotator cuff are damaged or become inflamed and cause pain. The medical term for this condition is “rotator cuff tendinitis”. Other causes of shoulder pain can be:

  • Bursitis
  • Instability, such as dislocating your shoulder
  • Frozen shoulder - this happens when the joint capsule inside the shoulder become stiff and painful to move
  • Overuse or injury to the tendons near the shoulder, such as your biceps

When should I see my doctor?

  • You have severe shoulder pain
  • You are having problems moving it
  • Your shoulder pain is getting worse or persisting
  • Your shoulder is swollen
  • You have other symptoms that worry you


Lifestyle tips for shoulder pain

The following tips can help prevent future shoulder pain:

  • Pay attention to your posture – long periods sitting with your shoulders hunched can increase the risk of shoulder injury or pain
  • If your doctor or physiotherapist has recommended strengthening or range-of-motion exercises, make sure you do them regularly, as recommended
  • Always consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen or routine

If you have any other aches or pains, you may find the tips in the Muscle Pain and Neck Pain sections helpful.

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