8 Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint that takes a lot of wear-and-tear, particularly if you engage in sports, perform manual labor, or play certain musical instruments. About 70% of women and men experience shoulder pain at least once during their lifetime.

Our expert rheumatologists at the Rheumatology Center of New Jersey diagnose and treat shoulder pain at our three New Jersey offices. Why does your shoulder hurt? Here are a few reasons you could be in pain. 

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition that develops over time or with repetitive motions. If you use your shoulder joint a lot — to paint, throw balls, swing rackets, or play a violin — you could wear away the protective cartilage that coats the ends of your joint bones.

Without cartilage, the bones rub against one another, causing friction. The friction inflames the soft tissues in the joint, including the nerves. 

Rheumatoid arthritis

Unlike osteoarthritis, which is associated with the wear-and-tear of older age, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition that strikes at any time. Just as with osteoarthritis, the protective cartilage on the joint bones degrades in RA. 

But instead of wear-and-tear, the breakdown is the result of your own immune system’s mistaken attack on the cartilage. Your immune system breaks down the tissue, leaving your bones exposed and vulnerable.

Bursitis

Another type of protective tissue in your shoulder is called the bursa. The bursa are fluid-filled sacs that separate the joint bones from soft tissue. 

You can irritate the bursa through overuse, such as pitching a ball repeatedly or wielding a paintbrush. As with many types of pain, bursitis sometimes accompanies another shoulder issue, such as a tendinitis, a sprain, or a strain.

Rotator cuff injury

The rotator cuff refers to four small muscles and the tendons that attach them to bones and help keep your shoulder joint stable and mobile. Pitchers often tear their rotator cuffs, but anyone who has to throw, swing, or exert force on their shoulder joint could suffer a rotator cuff tear or injury. 

Tendinitis

Your tendons attach your muscles to your bones. When you irritate your tendons with overuse, they become inflamed and painful. Resting and icing your shoulder usually resolves tendinitis within a few days.

Strains and sprains

Sprains are tears or stretches in your ligaments. Strains are tears or stretches in your muscles and tendons. Sometimes you can actually tear a tendon or ligament in two. 

Most strains and sprains heal with the RICE protocol (rest, icing, compression, and elevation), but some require surgical correction or other therapies.

Fractures

Your shoulder joint is composed of three bones: 

Falling or getting into a collision, such as a car accident, can fracture one or more of the bones in your shoulder. You’re more susceptible to shoulder fractures as you age. A hairline fracture can’t be detected except by X-ray or another imaging technique.

Impinged nerve

Any kind of inflammation in your shoulder — whether from arthritis or tendinitis — can press against a nerve, causing pain. In fact, many of the other causes of shoulder pain also involve nerve pain. 

We take the time to thoroughly evaluate all of the factors that could contribute to your shoulder pain. Then we custom-design a treatment strategy that targets each factor. Options may include physical therapy, platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) therapy, and joint injections.

To get relief from shoulder pain — no matter what the cause — call our nearest location in Somerville, Flemington, or Monroe, New Jersey. You can also request an appointment using our online tool.

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