Shoulder Pain Guide

Shoulder pain is one of the very most common joint problems. So many things can trigger it. The shoulder is packed with many ligaments, muscles, tendons, bones, and sacs filled with fluid. All of them work in sync in a tiny space. It is cluttered together and relies on one another.

It may take some time the body to heal from shoulder pain. This is such a common complaint that in primary care, the annual incidence is 14.7 per 1,000 patients, with a lifetime prevalence of 70%. This complaint has a high recurrence rate, with 25% of those affected having previous episodes.

And 40% to 50% of patients experience a recurrence or persisting aches after a 12-month follow-up. To better understand the shoulder pain reasons and find the proper treatment methods, look at the guide below. In addition, we compiled some practical information that you will find helpful.

Quick Facts

– Most shoulder pains aren’t serious and tend to subside in the next two weeks. 

– Physical activity can ease the discomfort and avoid future symptoms.

– Many people prefer to take painkillers. But, applying an ice pack to the affected area can also help. 

Types of Shoulder Pain

Pain in the shoulder usually arises under the acromion (the bone that creates the “roof” of the shoulder). This is known as shoulder impingement. But other factors can also lead to pain in this particular area, like osteoarthritis or frozen shoulder.

Understanding the different causes can help you figure out the type of shoulder pain you are dealing with. Including the potential risk factors. The injuries that lead to pain in the shoulder include:

–   Frozen shoulder – Roughly 5% to 20% of the population will experience an episode of adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder). This problem often occurs in individuals over 40, predominantly female patients. It limits joint movement, which leads to pain. It tends to heal on its own. However, sometimes full recovery might require physical therapy to speed up the whole process

–   Bursitis – Around 1 out of 10,000 people develop bursitis on the elbows or knees every year. A third of these inflammations are the result of a bacterial infection. With repeated motions or injury, the bursa gets irritated and swollen.

–   Impingement – Arises where a tendon rubs a tissue or bone nearby as you try to lift the arm.

–   Rotator cuff tear – Patients, particularly the elderly, can easily damage or overuse their rotator cuff. With old age, it is also prone to wear and tear. The shoulder might cause pain in the middle of the night or when you are lifting things around the house. People can also hear a crackling sound when they try to move their rotator cuff.

–   Fracture – A broken collarbone is the most prevalent shoulder fracture type. The collarbone causes sharp pain, bruises, and swelling at the injury site when broken. With a fracture, you may not be able to lift the arm since the shoulder could sag.

–   Cartilage tear – Cartilage is a connective tissue found in many body areas. Even if it’s sturdy and flexible, it could easily get damaged, like hitting the shoulder too hard or falling and injuring the spot. In addition, it can be difficult to reach over the head with a cartilage tear because the injury causes pain and makes the shoulder appear weak. 

–   Separation – When the collarbone gets pushed out of its designated spot, people develop a bump on the top section of their shoulder. The injury has affected the joint where the shoulder blade and collarbone come together, causing pain and discomfort.

–   Dislocation – If the top of the arm pops out of the socket, the shoulder feels weak and in pain. Depending on the severity of the dislocation, there could also be some bruising, numbness, and swelling. 

Other conditions could also lead to pain in the shoulder, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, tendinitis, and bone spurs. At times, the shoulder could hurt when nothing is wrong with it. This could indicate other issues, such as problems with the liver, gallbladder, or another organ. 

To know what’s causing the problem, talk to a specialist. They will do a physical exam to observe any structural abnormalities that might have led to the pain. And rule out any ailments that may or may not be causing the problem.


The treatment you use will vary based on what’s causing the problem. For broken bones, separation, and dislocation, it’s critical to have a doctor treat the affected spot. On the other hand, the unbearable shoulder pain can’t be managed with at-home treatment, especially when the shoulder should be returned to its correct position for it to heal.

The doctor can suggest ice or heat therapy, rest, and pain medicine for other, more common problems. Options such as ibuprofen and aspirin can curb aches and swelling. When the shoulder doesn’t improve with adequate treatment, the doctor could use anti-inflammatory medicine (corticosteroid) to alleviate the shoulder pain and swelling. 

For more severe shoulder issues, surgery may be necessary. But, this can only be decided by a healthcare practitioner. Doctors suggest a good balance between exercise and physical activity to incorporate preventive strategies. 

Exercises for Shoulder Pain

It’s essential to add physical activity and sufficient rest throughout the healing process. Some exercises intend to curb the pain and better the shoulder’s structures in tip-top shape. Strengthening and stretching shoulder pain exercises are an excellent way to start.

–   Pendulum exercise – Stand near a sturdy surface or a chair. Position the healthy hand on the chair and let the other hang down. Swing that arm with care forward and backward. Maintain circular swinging motions. Repeat around five times, twice a day. 

–   Arm stretch – Take a comfortable position with the back on the floor. Raise the arms over the head as further as possible and hold for 5 seconds. Relax and repeat ten times. This stretch is meant to alleviate some mild shoulder problems.

–   Shoulder stretch – Stand upright and raise the shoulders. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Then squeeze the shoulder blades and repeat. Pull them downward, as if you are making a circular motion, and hold for another 5 seconds. Do the same thing ten times.

Does COVID Cause Shoulder Pain?

In some cases, severe arm and shoulder problems can occur after recovering from COVID. Mainly in patients who stayed in the hospital for an extended period. The shoulder aches can be accompanied by numbness, stiffness, and muscle weakness. But, it can vary from person to another.

When Should I Be Concerned About Shoulder Pain?

If you recently got injured or have sudden crushing pain or pressure in the shoulder, contact the medical emergency department, particularly if this pain is running from the chest to the neck, arm, and jaw.