Shoulder pain is any pain in or around the shoulder joint.
The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body. A group of four tendons in the shoulder, called the rotator cuff, give the shoulder a wide range of motion.
Swelling, damage, or bone changes around the rotator cuff can cause shoulder pain. You may have pain when lifting the arm above your head or moving it forward or behind your back.
The most common cause of shoulder pain is when rotator cuff tendons become trapped under the bony area in the shoulder. The tendons become inflamed or damaged, a condition called rotator cuff tendinitis.
Shoulder pain may also be caused by:
Sometimes, shoulder pain may be due to a problem in another area of the body, such as the neck or lungs. This is called "referred pain." People with this type of pain usually do not have pain when moving the shoulder.
Here are some tips for helping shoulder pain get better:
Very sudden shoulder pain can sometimes be a sign of a heart attack. Call 911 if you have sudden pressure or crushing pain in your shoulder, especially if the pain runs from your chest, jaw, or neck, or occurs with shortness of breath, dizziness, or sweating.
Go to the hospital emergency room if you have just had a severe injury and your shoulder is very painful, swollen, bruised, or bleeding.
Call your health care provider if you have:
Your health care provider will perform a physical examination and closely look at your shoulder. You will be asked questions such as:
Your doctor may order blood or imaging tests.
Treatment for shoulder pain may include:
Pain - shoulder
Greiwe RM, Ahmad CS. Management of the throwing shoulder: cuff, labrum and internal impingement. Orthop Clin North Am. 2010;41:309-323.
Krabak BJ, Banks NL. Adhesive capsulitis. In: Frontera WR, Silver JK, eds. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 10.
DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, et al. Shoulder. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 17.
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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