Shoulder pain can occur due to mild causes like overuse of shoulder muscles, bad posture, or minor injuries. Shoulder pain can also be a symptom of serious underlying conditions like bursitis, tendonitis, degenerative arthritis, frozen shoulder, and whiplash injury, etc. Mild cases can be treated with ice packs, painkillers, and other home remedies, while severe cases require medical attention.
Causes of shoulder pain
Some of the common causes and associated symptoms of shoulder pain are listed below:
- Calcific tendonitis: It is a self-limiting condition caused by accumulation of calcium within the rotator cuff tendons, which then creates pressure in the area and leads to symptoms like mild to severe shoulder pain as well as pain in side of arm. The pain may worsen when lying on the side of the affected shoulder or when carrying out overhead activities. The condition resolves in about 5 to 10 years.
- Sports injury: It can occur when exercising the shoulder or playing contact sports due to use of incorrect gear or poor practices. In addition to injury on the shoulder, other body areas may also get affected, such as when falling on the shoulder and back. Symptoms include mild to severe shoulder pain, swelling and bruising of affected areas, and limited range of motion of the affected arm.
- Frozen shoulder: Also called adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is a condition marked by pain and stiffness of the shoulder. It occurs due to immobilization of the shoulder post surgery, or if the arm has remained in a sling for many weeks, of if it has been kept in a specific position for prolonged periods. The condition has 3 stages; in the painful stage, the shoulder has restricted range of motion and there is shoulder pain when it is moved; in the frozen stage, pain reduces, but the shoulder experiences increased stiffness and the range of motion reduces significantly; in the thawing stage, there is improvement in the shoulder’s range of motion.
- Rotator cuff tear: The rotator cuff helps in rotating and lifting the arm. It also makes the shoulder joint ball stable. A torn rotator cuff may cause shoulder pain when lifting arm; shoulder muscle thinning; ache when lowering a fully raised arm; crackling sensation when the arm is moved; problems in lifting and rotating the arm.
- Strains: Shoulder strains can occur due to reasons like a person’s lifestyle, job, etc. Patients may experience mild to moderate pain or strain, bruising, swelling, and discomfort.
- Arthritis: It is a condition marked by inflammation of the joints. People with arthritis of the shoulder joints may suffer from symptoms like shoulder joint pain and swelling; joint stiffness, particularly in mornings; decreased shoulder joint movement; redness of surrounding skin; and warmth of surrounding area.
- Myofascial pain syndrome: It occurs due to increased muscle strain or injury of muscle, tendon, or ligament. Sprain of the shoulder muscles can cause pain in back and shoulder. Sitting for prolonged duration in front of the computer can cause neck and shoulder pain and stiffness. Other symptoms are muscle stiffness, adjacent joint stiffness, worsening or persistent pain, deep muscle ache, increased tension and sensitivity of affected area, and sleeping problems.
- Fracture: Partial or total crack in the bone is known as a fracture. A shoulder fracture is marked by bruising, tingling and numbness, redness, intense shoulder pain, swelling, deformation, and loss of shoulder or arm movements.
- Osteoarthritis: It is a degenerative disease marked by wear and tear of the joint cartilages. It is more common in older people, but can affect young individuals via shoulder trauma or injury. Patients typically suffer from persistent shoulder pain, especially when the affected shoulder is moved. Other symptoms include stiffness, limited movements, and creaking or grating sound when the shoulder is moved.
- Dislocation: A dislocated shoulder may cause shoulder and arm pain; nil shoulder joint movement; bruising and swelling; and deformed shape of the affected shoulder. These symptoms are dependent on the severity of dislocation.
- Fibromyalgia: It is a condition marked by tender spots and muscle pain in areas like the back, neck, shoulder, and hips. It usually affects rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune disease patients, but can occur in anyone. In addition to shoulder pain, affected people may experience sleeping problems, pain sensitivity, burning pain, fatigue, spasms, stiff muscles, and pain which alters location.
- Other causes: Shoulder pain may also occur due to conditions like lung cancer, gallstones, pinched nerve, liver abscess, and bursitis, etc.
Treatment of shoulder pain
Severe shoulder pain caused due to serious underlying conditions needs to be treated by a doctor. Mild shoulder pain can be treated with self-care and below listed home remedies.
- Rest the shoulders and avoid putting any pressure on them.
- Excess bodyweight can stress the shoulders. Hence, lose it.
- Ice or hot packs can help reduce inflammation and pain.
- Stretching and other simple exercises can help control muscle and shoulder pain. Meditation and yoga is helpful both physically and mentally. It can help relax the fatigued muscles as well as reduce stress, thereby alleviating shoulder pain.
- Doctors may prescribe painkillers, NSAIDs for temporary relief from pain. Steroid injections may be required for severe pain.