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Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Our shoulders are one of the most important joints to perform simple activities. And when they hurt --it can be exhausting. While there is a lot of buzz about shoulder injuries in athletes, they affect everyone from young to old. Let’s look at some of the common causes of shoulder pain and their symptoms.

Shoulder Bursitis

A common cause of discomfort from inflamed tissue meant to protect your rotator cuff from the bones in your shoulder. Usually a soreness that keeps you up at night. Unfortunately, this comes with maturity for most people.

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

Probably the most common problem. Pain when reaching up or behind. Repetitive activity and maturity will lead to this inflammation of the tendons themselves. You may feel weakness using your arm.

Rotator Cuff Tears

Pain and a significant weakness trying to raise your arm. Once the tendons fail and tears away from the bone you lose your ability to lift the arm well. This can be from an injury or develop over time from tendonitis.

Laberal Tears

A deep pain in the socket. Usually this is caused by an injury that dislocates or strains your shoulder. There may be a sharp pain deep in the shoulder in certain motions.


Your shoulder feels like it might pop out in certain positions. Sometimes even sleeping or dressing. There is usually a history of a dislocation of the shoulder from sports or injury.


Pain when reaching overhead or behind. Often caused from structures normally in your shoulder rubbing against the tendons and irritating them. Could be from arthritis in the AC joint, inflamed ligaments, or a "bone spur." Usually a repetitive activity or lack of good range of motion and strength in the shoulder is the cause.

Frozen Shoulder

While not always painful, it is stiff, hence the name. Often there is no injury or obvious cause. It often occurs in middle age women without warning.


Stiffness and pain, with occasional catching and/or grinding. Although it is not as common as other joint, the shoulder joint will wear out over time. The cartilage wears down and bones rub together.

There are many other causes for shoulder pain including shoulder injuries, neck problems, and chest problems. Think about your shoulder pain --- when it started, did you injure it, how does it affect you. Be prepared to tell your orthopedic surgeon and help come up with a treatment plan.

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