Definition of shoulder pain
Shoulder pain includes any pain that arises in or around your shoulder. Shoulder pain may originate in the joint itself, or from any of the many surrounding muscles, ligaments or tendons. Shoulder pain usually worsens with activities or movement of your arm or shoulder.
Certain diseases and conditions affecting structures in your chest or abdomen, such as heart disease or gallbladder disease, also may cause shoulder pain. Shoulder pain that arises from some other structure is called “referred pain.” Referred shoulder pain usually doesn’t worsen when you move your shoulder.
Causes of shoulder pain
Shoulder pain causes include:
- Avascular necrosis
- Brachial plexus injury
- Broken arm
- Cervical radiculopathy
- Dislocated shoulder
- Frozen shoulder
- Heart attack
- Sprains and strains
- Polymyalgia rheumatica
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Rotator cuff injury
- Separated shoulder
- Septic arthritis
- Tendon rupture
- Thoracic outlet syndrome
- Torn cartilage
When to see a doctor
Call 911 or emergency medical assistance
Shoulder pain accompanied by difficulty breathing or a sense of tightness in the chest may be a symptom of a heart attack and requires immediate medical attention.
Seek immediate medical attention
Ask someone to drive you to urgent care or the emergency room if your shoulder pain is caused by an injury and is accompanied by:
- A joint that appears deformed
- Inability to use the joint or move your arm away from your body
- Intense pain
- Sudden swelling
Schedule an office visit
Make an appointment with your doctor if your shoulder pain is accompanied by:
- Tenderness and warmth around the joint
To relieve minor shoulder pain you might try:
- Pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) may help.
- Rest. Avoid using your shoulder in ways that cause or worsen pain.
- Ice. Apply an ice pack to your painful shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes a few times each day.