Shoulder pain can be one of the most intense and disabling pain a person experiences. Pain in the shoulder area can have various causes. The type of pain and the area affected can provide an idea of the cause and source of pain.
Types of shoulder pain
Burning pain = nerve pain
Aching pain = bones or joints
Aching after activity = muscular
Sharp, stabbing pains = structures catching against each other or inflammation.
Many people consider the area between the neck and the the top of their arm as the shoulder, however pain from the shoulder can be felt in the upper arm and can move down (radiate) down the arm.
Pain arising from the neck, as a result of spondylosis or as a result of entrapment of the nerve is felt between the base of the neck and the top of the arm. This can sometimes be accompanied by numbness or lighting-type shooting pain down into the hand or fingers.
Pain around the shoulder blade at the back arises from problems around the shoulder blades or from the spine.
Your doctor will usually question you regarding the exact nature, duration and site of pain to make a diagnosis and discuss treatment.
Some common causes of Shoulder pain
Frozen shoulder: Inflammation develops in the shoulder that causes pain and stiffness. As a frozen shoulder progresses, movement in the shoulder can be severely limited.
Osteoarthritis: The common "wear-and-tear" arthritis that occurs with aging. The shoulder is less often affected by osteoarthritis than the knee.
Rheumatoid arthritis: A form of arthritis in which the immune system attacks the joints, causing inflammation and pain. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint, including the shoulder.
Gout: A form of arthritis in which crystals form in the joints, causing inflammation and pain. The shoulder is an uncommon location for gout.
Rotator cuff tear: A tear in one of the muscles or tendons surrounding the top of the humerus. A rotator cuff tear may be a sudden injury, or result from steady overuse.
Shoulder impingement: The acromion (edge of the scapula) presses on the rotator cuff as the arm is lifted. If inflammation or an injury in the rotator cuff is present, this impingement causes pain.
Shoulder dislocation: The humerus or one of the other bones in the shoulder slips out of position. Raising the arm causes pain and a "popping" sensation if the shoulder is dislocated.
Shoulder tendonitis: Inflammation of one of the tendons in the shoulder's rotator cuff.
Shoulder bursitis: Inflammation of the bursa, the small sac of fluid that rests over the rotator cuff tendons. Pain with overhead activities or pressure on the upper, outer arm are symptoms.
Labral tear: An accident or overuse can cause a tear in the labrum, the cuff of cartilage that overlies the head of the humerus. This usually results in instability but can lead to secondary impingement and pain.
Dr Vinod Kumar Abu Dhabi
Shoulder Surgeon Abu Dhabi
NMC Royal Hospital