Shoulder pain is a symptom which has many causes. Shoulder pain that does not get better in 2 weeks might need treatment.
The shoulder joint is an unstable joint because the ball is much larger than the socket. There are 4 muscles which make up the rotator cuff, surrounding the joint and giving it stability.
The upper arm has a rounded end (the ball) which fits into the saucer shaped joint of the shoulder (the socket). The socket of the shoulder joint is normally small and shallow, so the muscles and tendons surrounding the joint are required to give stability and allow movement in all directions.
The shoulder joint is one of the most complex joints in the body which gives it a wide range of motion but also makes it vulnerable to injury.
Because the shoulder joint is made up of so many parts, there are many causes of shoulder pain. These include:
- Inflammation – where the shoulder becomes swollen and painful in reaction to infection or injury
- Damage to muscles and tendons around the shoulder joint
- Damage to muscles between the neck and shoulder
- Damage to the bones or cartilage in the joint
- Problems with the fluid or capsule surrounding the joint.
Possible causes can often be narrowed down by the symptoms they cause
- Pain and stiffness that lasts for months or years – arthritis or frozen shoulder
- Pain that is worse when using your arm or shoulder – tendonitis, bursitis, impingement
- Tingling, numbness, weakness, clicking – shoulder instability
- Sudden intense pain, difficulty moving the arm – dislocation, broken bone, torn tendon
- Pain at the top of the shoulder where the collarbone is – AC joint dislocation, damaged ligaments
Mild shoulder pain can be improved by staying active, doing gentle shoulder exercises and maintaining good posture.
It is a good idea to see a doctor if the pain does not get better in 2 weeks, it’s difficult to move your arm or shoulder, or the pain started after an accident or injury. You should seek urgent medical attention if the pain comes on suddenly or is very intense, you cannot move your arm at all, the arm is very swollen or abnormal in shape, you have pins and needles or numbness that do not go away, or your arm or shoulder are either hot or cold to touch.