Your shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in your body, providing your upper arm with an extensive range of motion. You may not realize how much you move your shoulder until it starts to hurt.

Because you use your shoulder in so many ways each day, injury and ailments are relatively common. Research indicates that shoulder pain ranks as the third most common musculoskeletal complaint in primary care. Every year, about 1% of adults visit a primary care practitioner for new shoulder pain.

Shoulder pain can be caused by several types of injuries and conditions. Interventional pain management specialist Shoeb Mohiuddin, MD, of Regenerative Pain & Spine in Chicago, Illinois, specializes in diagnosing and treating shoulder pain.

After a thorough physical examination and review of imaging and diagnostic tests, Dr. Mohiuddin determines the cause of your pain and the most appropriate treatment to resolve your symptoms and help you heal.

The first level of treatment for many cases of shoulder pain involves rest, lifestyle modifications, and treatment of pain with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If these conservative approaches don’t work, an injection of cortisone or hyaluronic acid may improve your symptoms.

Depending on the source and extent of your shoulder pain, you may benefit from one or more innovative alternatives to shoulder surgery, such as physiotherapy, shock wave therapy, or regenerative medicine. Treatment of long-term or severe shoulder pain may require shoulder replacement surgery.

Here, we discuss three leading causes of shoulder pain and the symptoms that accompany them.

1. Rotator cuff tears

Your rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons that work to keep your upper arm bone in the socket of your shoulder blade. A rotator cuff tear can be caused by an injury-related acute tear or a degenerative tear.

An acute tear occurs when you fall on your arm or use a jerking motion to lift something too heavy. A degenerative tear occurs as the result of the tendon wearing down over time.

Common causes of degenerative rotator cuff tears include:

  • Repetition of the same motion such as those performed in a job, routine chores, or when participating in sports like baseball, tennis, or rowing
  • Lack of adequate blood supply to repair minor tendon weakness and damage
  • Long-term shoulder impingement

Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include pain at rest and at night. Arm weakness and/or pain when lifting or lowering your arm can also occur. You may also experience a cracking or crackling sensation when moving your shoulder in certain positions.

2. Arthritis

Shoulder arthritis occurs as a result of damage to the cartilage within your shoulder joint. Cartilage covers both the head of the upper arm bone and the shoulder socket to provide a smooth gliding surface where the two bones meet. Degeneration of the cartilage can eventually lead to painful bone-on-bone interaction with movement.

The most common type of shoulder arthritis is osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that occurs as a result of wear and tear related to aging. Arthritis of the shoulder can also occur as the result of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder.

Your shoulder can also develop arthritis as a result of a shoulder injury (post-traumatic shoulder arthritis), a prolonged rotator cuff tear (rotator cuff tear arthropathy), or a disrupted blood supply to the shoulder (avascular necrosis).

Symptoms of shoulder arthritis include pain in the front, side, or back of the shoulder joint even when you’re not using your arm. Joint stiffness and a sensation of grinding, clicking, or cracking can also occur with shoulder arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis can be accompanied by a feeling of swelling in your joints.

3. Tendonitis and shoulder impingement

Shoulder pain can occur as the result of inflammation or irritation of a tendon due to tendonitis or shoulder impingement, even without a rotator cuff tear.

Shoulder tendonitis is the inflammation of your rotator cuff or biceps tendon. It can make the affected arm feel tender or weak. Performing tasks that require moving your affected arm overhead or behind your back can become difficult.

Symptoms of shoulder tendonitis can also include pain that interrupts your sleep. You can experience radiating pain throughout your arm. Over time, tendonitis can lead to a loss of strength and movement.

Shoulder impingement is a relatively common condition that accounts for up to 65% of all complaints of shoulder pain. It occurs when the top outer edge of your shoulder blade pinches the rotator cuff beneath it as a result of swelling or age-related bone spurs. The result causes sharp pain and discomfort during movement.

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, don’t delay in getting an accurate diagnosis. Call one of our offices in the West Ridge area of Chicago to arrange a consultation.

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