Healthcare experts estimate that approximately 65% of people experience shoulder pain at some point in their lives. This isn’t hard to believe, considering we use our arms and shoulders to carry out common everyday tasks and movements – from lifting up our children to pulling down the garage door.
Our shoulders are complex joints that are built to withstand pressure and allow a full range of motion. The muscles and ligaments that make up the shoulder keep it stable and secure in what is called the shoulder socket.
Due to the shoulder being a very flexible joint, it is prone to injury and degeneration. Think about this: what if one day you were throwing a ball or woke up and your shoulder was frozen in place? For sure you would be in pain. But there are a number of different kinds of pain sensation, and each can help identify what sort of shoulder injury you might have. Here are some warning signs of shoulder conditions based on the pain sensation:
Nagging or aching sensations are common with shoulder injuries, making it difficult for the doctor to pinpoint an accurate diagnosis. If you are suffering from pain, whether it is dull or deep, you may have the following conditions:
- Rotator cuff tears can be caused by wear and tear of the rotator cuff tendons and the cartilage over time from consistent, repetitive use or from a traumatic event, such as a fall.
- Frozen shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis) is characterized by stiffness and pain within the shoulder joint that causes the arm to “freeze up,” making it hard to move your arm.
- Osteoarthritis: The most common type of arthritis, osteoarthritis in the shoulder occurs when the cartilage of the shoulder joint starts to wear away between the bones, causing bone-on-bone rubbing and friction, resulting in inflammation and pain.
The location of pain “radiating” from the shoulder to other areas or joints in the body can be difficult for doctors to diagnosis or pinpoint, as the pain moves to other areas of the body. Radiating pain usually is located in the arm or neck areas. You may have the following conditions if you are feeling this type of pain:
- Arthritis. When arthritis affects the top of your shoulder in what is called the acromioclavicular joint (AC joint), you may experience radiating pain moving into the neck area.
- Tendonitis. Tendons are responsible for connecting the muscles and bone in the shoulder joint. Tendonitis causes pain mostly in the rotator cuff area and radiates to the outside of the arm near the topmost part of the shoulder. This condition is due mostly to overuse.
Sometimes the burning or tingling sensation felt in the shoulder joint and surrounding areas are caused by nerve pain. Nerves are responsible for transmitting pain, sensation and muscle movement to your extremities such as the shoulder. When the nerves in the shoulder are pinched or irritated, the pain signals may become blocked or intensified, often causing a burning sensation. You may have the following conditions if you are feeling this type of pain:
- “Referred pain.” Even though you may not feel pain or burning in the neck itself, the burning sensation you may be feeling could be in a different location than the shoulder. This is called “referred pain.”
- Pinched Nerve. Did you ever experience a burning or tingling sensation down your arm? When a disc moves out of place, it can compress a nerve, hence the name pinched nerve and the tingling or burning sensation.
- Subacromial bursitis is characterized by inflammation or irritation of the bursa, a small sac filled with fluid that serves as a shock absorber and protective barrier between the bones and soft tissue, such as the skin, muscles, and ligaments. In the shoulder, the subacromial bursa fills the space between the acromion (projection of the shoulder blade-scapula) and the rotator cuff, separating the two. Due to trauma or overuse, the bursa can become inflamed and swollen with excessive fluid, causing severe pain, stiffness and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint.
If you are experiencing shoulder pain, seek medical attention immediately for the best chance of diagnosis and early treatment to avoid further complications from occurring.
To learn more about the common conditions that could affect the shoulder and the signs that you should look out for, call the orthopedic specialists at South Palm Orthopedics at or request an appointment online.