The shoulder is a ball and socket joint where your upper arm bones (humerus), shoulder blades (scapula), and collarbone (clavicle) meet. Each shoulder is held in place by a group of soft tissues that consist of muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff covers and protects the upper arm bones and allows you to have a range of motion with your arms.

There are various reasons that you may experience shoulder pain such as through an injury, overdoing a workout, or simply wear and tear of aging. Today, we are going to look at the most common causes of shoulder pain and various treatments.

Symptoms of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain symptoms can vary based on diagnosis, however, there are a few common symptoms. The onset of the pain can be gradual or sudden and the pain can either be a dull ache or sharp and severe pain. Some people feel that the pain is worsened by use, while others experience the pain constantly.

Other symptoms include the inability to move the shoulder, stiffness, muscle spasms, swelling, numbness, tingling, and weakness. Each diagnosis listed below may experience different symptoms. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, reach out to a medical professional for further evaluation.

Shoulder Pain Causes

Listed below are a few of the most common causes of shoulder pain and the symptoms that are associated with each injury. This is not a comprehensive list, simply the most common causes.

Get Back Your Normal Life Again

As pain specialists, we can guarantee that we are more than qualified in alleviating your pain and treating your condition.

Heart Attacks

The most severe cause of shoulder pain is a heart attack. If you are experiencing left shoulder pain that spreads down the arm, up towards the chin, and across the shoulder blades and upper back then you must seek medical attention immediately.

Most people mistake these particular symptoms as strained muscles or indigestion because they can be subtle but these are all symptoms of a heart attack. There are variations in how the pain presents itself but when in doubt, get checked out.

Shoulder Dislocation

If the shoulder is pulled back or rotates too far, the upper arm bone can pop out of its socket. The shoulder is the body’s most flexible joint which makes dislocation rather common. Specific symptoms of a dislocated shoulder will be swelling, bruising, intense pain, inability to move the joint, and it will have visible deformation.

While waiting to see a medical professional do not move your arm and do not try to force the arm back into the socket. If force is used, it can further damage the joint and the surrounding muscles and ligaments. Keep the shoulder in a stable position and use ice to reduce pain and swelling.

Frozen Shoulder

The shoulder joint is in a capsule of connective tissues. A frozen shoulder occurs when that capsule thickens, resulting in a tightening around the should joint and restricting shoulder movement. Symptoms generally appear slowly and worsen over time. It can take one to three years for symptoms to fully improve.

Symptoms tend to develop in three stages: the freezing stage, the frozen stage, and the thawing stage. The freezing stage is the beginning and any movement causes pain. Slowly the mobility of the arm decreases. This stage can last from six weeks to nine months.

Next is the frozen stage, the painful symptoms may improve but the stiffness and inability to move continues. This stage can last four to six months.

The last stage is the thawing stage, where normal shoulder movements and strength begin to return but it can take anywhere from six months to two years to fully return. Treatment consists of physical therapy, steroid injections, and the use of anti-inflammatory medications.

Shoulder Impingement

Impingement, or rotator cuff tendinitis, occurs when the rotator cuff tendon rubs against the bone, called the acromion, creating irritation. This can be caused by the tendon becoming inflamed due to injury or overuse.

The acromion can develop bone spurs which in turn can cause irritation and inflammation to the rotator cuff tendon. This diagnosis is rather common and is treated with physical therapy and by applying ice to the shoulder. If physical therapy and activity modification does not relieve the pain then surgery will be considered.


Bursitis is caused when the fluid-filled sac, called the bursa, becomes irritated or inflamed due to an injury or simple overuse. You have bursa sacs throughout your body. The purpose of the bursa sac is to reduce rubbing and friction between bones, muscles, and tendons.

The main symptoms include redness, inflammation, and stiffness in the joint. The best way to prevent bursitis is to take breaks when doing repetitive motions. Treatments include resting the area and to put ice on the joint.

Rotator Cuff Tears

When one or more of the rotator cuff tendons is torn, it will begin to separate from the upper arm bone (humerus). The tears can be partial or full detachment from the humerus. Symptoms of a tear include pain when lifting the arm, weakness, and consistent pain at rest that will not subside.

If you have a rotator cuff tear and keep using the shoulder you can cause further damage. Treatment includes activity modification, physical therapy, and steroid injections to relieve the inflammation and pain. If the pain does not improve with nonsurgical treatments then surgery will be required to repair the tear.

Shoulder Arthritis

As we age, a common problem is shoulder arthritis. This refers to the gradual breakdown of the cartilage that protects the joints. There are multiple forms of arthritis ranging from degenerative joint disease, an autoimmune disorder, and even post-traumatic arthritis caused by an injury.

Typical symptoms include pain in the shoulder joint, stiffness, and a clicking or grinding sound with movement. Treatments vary from physical therapy, lifestyle modifications, steroid injections, and surgery. Surgery is always a last resort when nonsurgical treatments fail to ease the pain.

Shoulder Pain and the Arizona Pain and Spine Institute

At Arizona Pain & Spine Institute we are excited to offer cutting-edge treatments with amniotic fluid-derived regenerative medicine stem cells to restore damaged soft tissues and provide additional anti-inflammatory effect.

We have helped many patients find relief through pain management. If you are experiencing chronic shoulder problems, let our team of experts help. Book an appointment today to begin the journey of living life pain-free!