man holding sore shoulder

The Top 10 Causes of Shoulder Pain

Many of us take our shoulders for granted, assuming that all the hard work is actually performed by the neck and back. The reality is – the shoulders are just as integral to the rest of your body functioning properly. If there’s a problem, it can have a widespread effect.

The shoulder is actually comprised of three things: muscles, tendons, and ligaments. When all three are working properly and in unison, the body is a well-oiled machine, however, as noted, if just one is a little bit off, the results can be disastrous.

There are a fair number of common injuries and conditions that can occur that will cause the shoulders not to function properly. Your risk of developing shoulder pain will depend on your lifestyle, what sports or other activities you are involved in, and what type of work you do for a living.

Treatment options will also vary depending on your particular condition. To give you an idea of what can cause shoulder pain, following is a list of the top ten causes that patients experience:

Top 10

1.     Tendonitis

Tendonitis is a common condition experienced most by people who participate in activities or work that involve repetitive motions. Good examples are people who play certain sports such as baseball or tennis; commercial painters; and people who do a lot of work on a computer. While the movements don’t seem to be of particular concern while you are performing them, the repeated motions over and over can lead to inflammation of the tendons. It’s best to be cognizant of these motions while performing your activities, and be sure to give your arms and shoulders a rest every few minutes. If you do experience pain, there are a variety of treatment options available.

elderly man with shoulder pain2.     Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a condition characterized by a breakdown of the cartilage that cushions the bones and joints. With certain movements, you may experience pain, stiffness and swelling of your shoulders. Unfortunately the condition is most often attributed to age, however as with other conditions, repetitive stress and motion can lead to or exacerbate the condition.

3.     Bursitis

Within the shoulder are little sacs of fluid called bursa. The role of these bursa is to lubricate the joints, the rotator cuff in particular. Bursitis is an inflammation of this sac of fluid. Bursitis is frequently present alongside tendonitis.

4.     Impingement

Shoulder impingement is pretty much what it sounds like – a condition where the proper motions of the shoulder become impinged. Typically, it is caused by overuse of the shoulder. When the shoulder is over worked, the rotator cuff can become pinched or stuck between the bones, causing it to rub between the shoulder bones, thus making movement more difficult.

5.     Dislocation

Shoulder dislocation is unfortunately a fairly common occurrence. And a particularly painful one due to the fact that the shoulder joint or ball, has actually come out of the socket that holds the shoulder in place. It commonly occurs with a fall, or other hard impact to the shoulder. Treatment can range from simply having the jointed popped back into place, to surgery if there is other damage in the area.

6.     Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a condition that almost always occurs after a previous type of shoulder injury or condition. If you’ve had any type of shoulder pain, you’ll know that rest is one of the best treatments you can give yourself, however, the downside of that is that with limited movement, scarring can occur within the shoulder. This scarring can lead to tightening of the muscles to the point where the ability to actually move the shoulder is limited. This condition is called frozen shoulder.

7.     Labral Tear

Within the shoulder socket is a type of rubbery cartilage material called the labrum. The job of the labrum is to prevent the shoulder from dislocating from the socket. With particular types of rapid movements or injury, the labrum can tear, leading to all sorts of other problems, the most obvious being a dislocation or separation of the shoulder.

8.     Separated Shoulder

While most people get dislocated and separated shoulders confused, there is actually quite a difference. Where with a dislocation, the shoulder joint simply comes out of the socket, with a separated shoulder, it is actually the ligaments that hold the shoulder together that become torn and detach from the joint. While the causes (injury or other hard impact) are similar, the symptoms are quite different, as is the level of pain you may experience.

9.     Rotator Cuff Tear or Injury

The rotator cuff is comprised of muscles and tendons that allow your shoulder to rotate in the socket. One of the most common shoulder injuries is a rotator cuff tear. It can be caused by a wide variety of movements and injuries. In many cases, the patients is still able to function quite well with the condition, however for some, the pain is excruciating and debilitating and requires surgical repair.

10.  Broken Collarbone

The collarbone is a bone that connects the breastbone to the shoulder. It is often referred to as the clavicle bone. A broken collarbone is commonly seen in people who participate in sports, those who have experienced an injury or fall, and in particular, older people. This bone can become quite fragile, and falling the wrong way can cause it to snap. If you have a broken collarbone, not only will you lose a lot of mobility, but it will cause radiating pain out to your back, neck and shoulders.


As you can see, there are many different types of conditions or injuries that can cause shoulder pain. And while many of them may require the use of pain killers, and sometimes surgery, there are also natural alternatives that can help reduce the symptoms that can be discussed with your Vancouver chiropractor.   Depending on which condition you have, and why you have it, you may benefit from a combination of physical therapy, massage, and chiropractic.


The Top 10 Causes of Shoulder Pain was last modified: by

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