The shoulder is a complex joint consisting of four joints: the sternoclavicular, acromioclavicular, scapulothoracic and the glenohumeral joint. Interruption in any of these joints or the associated soft tissues of the shoulder muscles, has the potential to cause shoulder pain.

Most people have experienced shoulder joint pain at one time or another. Here is a list of 14 potential sources of shoulder pain.

There are many causes of sholder pain, here are 14 of the most common causes of shoulder pain.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Fractured Collar Bone

A fractured collar bone can occur because of trauma such as a fall or motorcycle accident. One of the more common causes of a fractured collar bone occur when a motorcyclist is involved in an accident that causes them to be propelled over the handlebars, landing on the asphalt.

A fractured or broken collar bone will often require surgery to realign the bone and its respective joints.

Dislocated Shoulder

A dislocated shoulder is generally the result of trauma and will present when the shoulder is popped out of the shoulder socket. The shoulder will present with a deformity, pain, swelling, bruising and / or numbness.

Shoulder dislocation is common in car accident, falls and in sports injuries.

Treatment typically includes a sedative and manipulation of the joint to restore proper alignment. A sling to immobilize the joint for several weeks is used to prevent further damage. Exercises are initiated to restore proper mobility and strength.

As a rule, the later in life that a dislocation occurs, the less likely it is to re-occur. The converse is also true: the earlier in life the dislocation occurs, the more likely it is to happen again.


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease which can develop from an old injury or just plain old, wear and tear.

As we mature, the cartilage in the joint wears down, causing limited mobility resulting in pain and swelling. These same symptoms will also be present in  rheumatoid arthritis and polymyalgia rheumatica.


Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa sac which contains fluid. The bursa sac helps to cushion the bones forming the shoulder joint. The typical signs and symptoms of bursitis include constant pain that worsens with movement. It typically strikes those people over 50 and those with immune system challenges and diabetes.

This is anopther reason why healthy living is great injury prevention.

It is common in athletes who perform repetitive motion such as swimmers and basketball players. Typical treatment involves the application of ice and exercise with antiinflammatory medicine.

Rotator Cuff Injury

This is one of the most common potential sources for shoulder pain. As we age, the bicep tendon becomes worn and prone to tearing. The pain from torn rotator cuff tendons is most evident when try raising your arm.

Rotator  cuff tendinitis can prevent the normal range of motion in the shoulder.

Treatment consists of physical therapy, ice, and pain management medications. Depending on the severity of the rotator cuff tears, surgery may be required.

Regardless of the treatment, the patient will be required to do  rotator cuff exercises.

Frozen Shoulder

A frozen shoulder (AKA adhesive capsulitis) is the inflammation of the lining of the glenohumeral joint. This problem is most common with women between the ages of 40 and 60 and usually comes on gradually without a direct injury.

As time goes on, the range of motion of the joint decreases, “freezing the shoulder joint”.

Typically, ice, antiinflammatory drugss, injections, physical therapy with ultrasound and exercise rehab will help to resolve the problem. Surgery as a last resort may be used along with the above-mentioned treatments.

Pinched Nerve

A nerve that is pinched, as it exits the cervical spine, can produce shoulder pain. This happens when the nerve is pinched by either bone (bone spurs) or disc. As a result, the patient will typically have pain, pins and needles or numbness in the shoulder, arm, or hand.

Treatment with chiropractic care along with physical therapy modalities and even co-management with steroid injections, provide pain relief.

Other causes of Shoulder Pain

Gallbladder, gallstones, and bile duct issues can cause right shoulder pain. These symptoms are referred to as “dermatomal referred pain patterns”. The reason for pain going to the right shoulder blade with gall bladder issues is a result of the phrenic nerve being compressed.

Generally, the pain resulting from gall bladder issues, does not increase with movement of the shoulder.


Fibromyalgia is a mysterious aliment which typically attacks women. These attacks can be in various body parts ranging from the top of the shoulder to knees, hips, and upper chest. Fibromyalgia pain is typically seen with fatigue, depression, anxiety, and headaches.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)

TOS occurs when blood vessels and nerves, exiting the lower cervical spine become compressed between the collar bone and the upper ribs. Symptoms can include numbness in the fingers and pain across the top of the shoulders with neck pain.

chiropractors offer nutritional counseling in addition to spinal manipulations. Because the goal of Chiropractic care with manual manipulation and physical therapy modalities are the preferred route of treatment with surgery as a last option.

Dangerous Sources of Shoulder Pain

Heart Attack

Heart attack pain, unlike gall bladder pain, is typical for left should pain and pain in the left arm. This left shoulder pain during a heart attack is more common is women. Left shoulder pain and pain in the left arm is a warning sign that deserves immediate medical attention. Chest pain is also an accompanying sign of a heart attack and potential heart failure.

Staying healthy with regular checks for heart disease can stop a wide range of symptoms.

Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the lungs. Typically, the patient experiencing a pulmonary embolism will feel pain in the shoulder which gets worse when they lie down.

This scenario requires immediate medical advice and intervention.

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Subarachnoid hemorrhaging is a serious condition with accompanying visual issues, numbness, confusion, and even painful headaches. This is an issue where there is a hemorrhage (bleeding) between the brain and its protective tissue layer.

This requires immediate emergency attention, and should you experience these symptoms, you will need to go directly to the nearest emergency room to prevent brain damage.

Lung Cancer

Cancer of the lungs can also refer pain to the shoulder. This type of pain is often overlooked and treated as arthritic degeneration.

If you have an accompanying chronic cough, weight loss, fatigue, difficult in breathing or shortness of breath as well as a tendency towards multiple respiratory infections, these may direct the doctor to determine that you do in fact have lung cancer.

Should you have pain in the shoulders, contact Tebby Chiropractic and Sports Medicine Clinic for evaluation and treatment. Call 704-541-7111 to schedule your appointment or use the handy appointment request form on the side of the page.

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