Some Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

What causes neck and shoulder pain?

Shoulder pain doesn’t always occur from a traumatic injury, it could just be as simple as repetitive use, and other times it comes from something completely unrelated to the shoulder – like gallbladder disease.

Lifting more than you can handle..

Often lifting something overhead or something heavier than what the shoulders can handle such as roof tilers carrying heavy amounts on their shoulders will cause shoulder pain. It’s a very common theme that the shoulder is simply overloaded and not trained for that. Overloading the shoulders soon puts strain on the rotator cuff.

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that connects the head of the upper arm bone to the shoulder socket. it helps with lifting and bringing arms overhead. When the rotator cuff is overused, it can lead to inflammation in the form of tendonitis or cause a tear in the cuff.

Muscle imbalance

Muscle Imbalances

When exercising and strengthening your shoulders, it’s key to prevent muscle imbalances and improve joint flexibility. Eg: you doing bench presses or bicep curls and you never go to the rowing machine, you are going to have a training imbalance.

Normal wear and tear

As we age, the rotator cuff thins and frays. It can lead to inflammation in the rotator cuff which typically presents itself as pain on the front and side o the shoulder. Osteoarthritis (O/A) this is the most common form of arthritis, mostly affecting the hands, knees, hips and spine. But that doesn’t mean the shoulders are immune to it. O/A can cause pain deep in the back of the shoulders and stiffness may become more of a problem as it progresses. With repeated use – like playing tennis most of your life, the cartilage covering the ends of your bones and cushioning them from one another will begin to deteriorate and that usually begins when you are in your 30’s. Great! We start falling apart when young…:-)


Like a cushion on your bones, bursae are fluid filled sacs that help reduce friction between your joints. Shoulder bursitis can occur when the joint is overused or strained, causing bursa to swell with more fluid.

Shoulder Instability

There are so many scenarios that can end in a traumatic dislocation of the shoulder, but sometimes you don’t need a hard hip to pop the ball from the socket. Some people are just lax and prone to dislocations. Shoulder instability can make people feel like their shoulder is about to come out of place at any time, or move back into the socket.

Just like other shoulder problems, strength training will be essential to recovery. An exercise to keep the arm and shoulder in one position is while holding a  Theraband – resistance bands, have someone else gently pull the band in different positions while you resist their motions. So you’re turning your shoulder on to avoid it from moving.

Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement is closely related to bursitis and tendinitis. It happens when the tendons in the shoulder get trapped and compressed in the acromion.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) occurs when the connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joint thickens and stiffens, restricting movement of the shoulder. It’s unrelated to arthritis, and is characterised by three stages: freezing, frozen, thawing. It’s usually during the first two stages that the pain is at its worst. It starts with a lot of pain and progresses from pain to a great deal of stiffness.

While there is no definite cause of frozen shoulder, some people are at a greater risk, including those who are 40 and over, people without previous shoulder problems, and people with diabetes, heart disease or thyroid problems. Treatments will vary depending on where the impairments are and take a lot of time. Unfortunately a lot of people don’t start feeling better until at least a year after they’re diagnosed with it.

News flash! What if shoulder pain isn’t coming from your shoulder at all?

An osteopath will investigate for referred pain in the nervous system, where pain from one problem area in the body is sent along the nerve pathway to another part. A classic example is the first symptom of a heart attack can be pain in the teeth or jaw. Both gallbladder disease and herniated discs in the neck can cause referred pain in the upper back, near the shoulder.

This kind of pain isn’t worsened when you move the shoulder, instead it’s more of a persistent pain that won’t go away even when you’re resting. If you experience this kind of pain, see an osteopath or see your doctor right away.


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