Causes of shoulder pain

Your “shoulder” is more than a simple joint, as you can imagine from the sheer number of ways in which you can move your arm. The shoulder joint is a combination of tendons, muscle, and bones, which allow a wide range of movement. The variety of motions made possible by the remarkable shoulder sometimes means it’s a location for pain and problems with the soft tissue and bone structure. Individuals may experience shoulder pain even when there’s been no injury or unusual movement. Of course, an injury may also lead to chronic pain that should be diagnosed and treated by a doctor. Continuing on the subject, in this blog post, we present some common shoulder problems than can cause pain. Take a look.

Causes of Shoulder Pain

The causes of shoulder pain are classified four general categories:

  • Inflammation of bursa or tendon; tendon tear
  • Arthritis
  • Instability
  • Disease or Fracture

Pain in the shoulder may also be a result of an infection, tumor, or be caused by nerve-related issues, though these are not as common as the four just mentioned.

The bursa is a small sac filled with fluid located in several joints in the body. They provide a cushion between the bones and the soft tissue, reducing friction during movement. Tendinitis can be acute or chronic, the first usually caused by work or play activities. Chronic tendinitis may occur due to repetitive wear or arthritis.

Read Related: Prolonged Shoulder and Elbow Pain: A Sign of Bursitis or Tendinitis

Other causes of shoulder pain are tears in the tendons from age or degeneration of the tissue, or can be due to a sudden injury. If your doctor diagnosis impingement in the shoulder, you are experiencing rubbing of the shoulder blade on the tendons and/or bursa. Shoulder instability happens when the upper arm bone comes out of the socket due to overuse or sudden injury.

Shoulder pain could be caused by arthritis, with osteoarthritis being a common type in the shoulder. This is generally due to age-related wear of bones, which results in stiffness, pain, and swelling. Osteoarthritis may also have a root cause in work or sports injury. A fracture (breaking the bone) may involve the collarbone, upper arm bone, or shoulder blade.


The doctor will look closely at the three bones that are part of the shoulder: upper arm (humerus), shoulder blade (scapula), and collarbone (clavicle). This diagnosis will also look for signs of injury and inflammation in the soft tissue, including the rotator cuff (a combination of tendons and muscles holding the arm bone in the socket).

Wrap Up

Effective management of shoulder pain (surgical or non-surgical treatment) can give you long-term relief and allow you to maintain normal function of the shoulder. If you experience persistent pain and are unsure of the underlying cause, contact the Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center referral center to connect with an experienced orthopedic surgeon near you. To schedule an appointment, click here, or call (888) 608-4762.

Note: Physicians participating in our referral program are independent practitioners and they are not employees or agents of Texas Health Spine and Orthopedic Center.


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Roger Emerson

Orthopedic SurgeonTexas Center for Joint ReplacementHip and Knee Replacement
Work Phone: 888-608-4762
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L.D. Jennings

Orthopedic SurgeonTexas Knee & SportsSports Medicine
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Peter Derman

Orthopedic Spine SurgeonTexas Back InstituteSpine Surgery
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Richard D. Guyer

Orthopedic Spine SurgeonTexas Back InstituteSpine Surgery
Work Phone: 888-608-4762
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