Common Causes Of Shoulder Pain

Can shoulder pain be caused by arthritis, is it always from some sort of injury or overuse, or is the pain radiating from somewhere else, such as the neck or cervical spine?

The shoulder is not only one of the largest joints, it is also one of the body’s most complex. What we simply call the shoulder is actually several joints surrounded by the tendons and muscles that all come together to give the shoulder its unique flexibility and range of motion. 

With complexity and frequent usage, however, comes vulnerability to injury, disease and the inevitable wear and tear, all of which result in shoulder pain. Most shoulder issues can be grouped into three major groups or categories: 

  • Arthritis
  • Injury or overuse
  • Tendon inflammation 

Shoulder Pain From Arthritis

The most common forms of arthritis that target the shoulder, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), are:

  • Osteoarthritis – this type of arthritis most often affects the shoulder and it is caused by the gradual wearing away of the cartilage that cushions and protects the bones of the joints. Osteoarthritis not only brings stiffness and pain to the shoulder, it also diminishes range of motion. 
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis – an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the body. This type of arthritis is often present in both shoulders at once and, in time, can lead to bone loss as well as deformity.
  • Post-Traumatic Arthritis – caused by a prior injury to the shoulder, this form of arthritis is often characterized by a buildup of fluid in the joint. 
  • Avascular Necrosis – a progressive disease that results from a lack of blood supply in the upper arm. The initial cause may be a fracture, dislocation or substance abuse. 
  • Rotator Cuff Tear Arthropathy – tearing in the tendons of the rotator cuff causes this type of arthritis, which can create severe pain and significant impairment to range of motion.

Shoulder Pain From Other Causes – Including An Inflamed Nerve From The Neck

While arthritis is often the underlying cause of shoulder pain, other conditions can also be the cause, including:

  • Dislocation, separation or fracture
  • Cartilage or rotator cuff tear
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Shoulder impingement
  • Tendinitis
  • Pinched nerve from the cervical spine or “radicular or nerve root pain”
  • Bursitis
  • Lupus 
  • Lyme Disease
  • Polymyositis 
  • Dermatomyositis 
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica 

If you are experiencing shoulder pain or difficulty with movement, it is important to consult with your healthcare professional as soon as there is a problem in order to prevent it from worsening, to establish a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, and to be able to return to your normal activities as soon as possible. The physicians and staff of Long Island Spine Rehabilitation are very experienced in treating a wide range of conditions. To schedule an appointment, or if you just have questions, please use our convenient online contact form by clicking here.