The shoulder is a sensitive joint because it comprises of a ball and socket. Because the range of movement of the shoulder joint is vast, there is a greater risk of injury. Any injury to the shoulder can result in shoulder pain. Shoulder pain can be caused by injury or overuse of the ligaments, tendons, and muscles surrounding the shoulder joint.

What Causes It?

There are numerous causes of shoulder pain. Some of the notable ones are:

  • Injury to the shoulder
  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Nerve damage
  • Frozen shoulder

In some cases, pain in the shoulder can signal the onset of a heart attack. Unlike other types of joint pains, shoulder pain is unlikely to be caused by cancer. Fracturing any of the bones in the shoulder can cause intense pain.

Risk Factors

The wide range of motion of the shoulder joint means the risk of overuse is ever-present. The shoulders are involved in lifting or any other activity involving the arms. This means that people who are into heavy physical activity or work in blue-collar jobs are at greater risk of developing shoulder pain. People who have a family history of conditions that are known to cause joint pain, such as arthritis or osteoarthritis, are also at a higher risk of shoulder pain. The common risk factors of shoulder pain include:

  • Injury to the shoulder bones or muscles
  • Repetitive strain

Poor posture can also place additional strain on the shoulder muscles, leading to dull pain over time. Injuries to the spine or neck can also cause shoulder pain.


The common symptoms of shoulder pain:

  • A constant dull ache in the shoulder
  • Shooting pain when moving the shoulder
  • Intense pain when exerting pressure on the shoulder
  • Pain when lying down on one side


In case of an injury or soft tissue shoulder pain, non-surgical treatments are ideal. Surgery is only recommended if the pain is caused by damage to the spinal cord. In case the pain is caused by arthritis, corticosteroid injections can help treat the condition. In case of acute shoulder pain, applying ice or heat can provide relief. However, in case of chronic pain, you might receive cortisone injections to reduce inflammation. Some shoulder exercises can also help stretch the muscles and enhance blood flow, thereby reducing pain.

Other treatments include the following prescription drugs:

  • NSAIDs
  • Muscle Relaxers
  • Tricyclic Antidepressants
  • Neuroleptics
  • General Pain Medications
  • Opioids

When to Request an Evaluation?

Delaying evaluation for shoulder pain, especially if caused by injury, can cause a tendon to tear. You should schedule an appointment with your doctor right away, especially if the pain is intense and doesn’t go away after a couple of days.

Preparing for Your Appointment

You need to ask your doctors a few questions to be clear about your condition and diagnosis. You should also inform the doctor about the possible causes, symptoms, and intensity of your shoulder pain. Your doctor may ask you to get an MRI or X-ray before diagnosis.