Common shoulder injuries and disorders contributing to pain include bursitis, tendinitis, tendon tears, instability arthritis, and bone fractures.
The complexity of movement and combination of joints can mean that pain or injury is often hard to pinpoint and can be experienced all the time or just when the shoulder is moving. The type of pain experience can point to what type of injury or condition has occurred, and medical treatment can be sought based on a clear diagnosis.
Cause of Shoulder Pain
Most shoulder issues can be categorized into the following:
- Tendon Inflammation (bursitis or tendinitis) or a tendon tear
Bursitis of the Shoulder
This condition is caused by inflammation and swelling of the bursae, which are small fluid filled sacs located in joints throughout the whole body. They exist to serve as cushions between the bone and the soft tissue, and to reduce friction between the moving muscles and the bone.
When the shoulder is used excessively, the swelling results in what is known as bursitis and the shoulder often becomes inflamed and painful to move, causing daily activities that use the shoulder to be a painful experience.
Tendinitis of the Shoulder
The tendon is a cord that connects muscle to bone. Tendinitis is usually caused by the wearing down of the tendon over time due to overuse.
Tendinitis can be either acute or chronic. Acute is the type that is caused by overuse of the joint or the tendon, stretching it too far or too often. Chronic tendinitis is a long term condition caused by diseases like arthritis or repeated wear and tear due to age.
Tendon Tears of the Shoulder
Tearing of the tendons can occur from acute injury or degenerative use. These tears may be small and partial or can split the tendon in two.
This injury occurs when the head of the upper arm bone comes out of the shoulder socket, caused by sudden injury or overuse.
Dislocation can be partial, with a portion of bone out of the socket or the ball can come entirely out of the socket in full dislocations. Once this injury occurs, it is likely that it can repeat itself.
Arthritis of the Shoulder
Shoulder pain can be caused by arthritis, and most commonly in the shoulder is ‘osteoarthritis’, caused by wear and tear. The symptoms of this are swelling, pain and stiffness, with worsening pain over time.
When pain occurs, often patients will avoid shoulder movement, which can stiffen the soft tissue and cause further pain and movement restriction.
Fractures of the Shoulder
Broken bones in the shoulder often involve the clavicle (collarbone), humerus (upper arm bone) and scapula (shoulder blade). These fractures are usually caused by falls from a standing height or, in young patients, high impact injury such as a car accident or an injury from a contact sport. Fractures will cause swelling, there will often be bruising and, of course, severe pain in the shoulder area.
Learn more about shoulder anatomy, injuries and disorders on the Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Institute (OSMI) website.