What is Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain explained by Denver, Golden, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, and Littleton Colorado’s top pain doctors

Shoulder Pain SkeletonShoulder pain is characterized as discomfort that is experienced due to inflamed blood vessels, musculoskeletal tissue, and nerves. The shoulder region is made up of the clavicle or collarbone, the scapula or the shoulder blade, and the humerus or the upper arm bone. The range of mobility of the shoulder is large, but its structure also makes it highly susceptible to injuries. Among musculoskeletal complaints, shoulder pain is labeled as the second most common form of discomfort that is reported by patients.

The severity and type of symptoms that may be experienced due to shoulder pain may differ greatly among patients because there are numerous underlying conditions that can lead to shoulder pain. The most common symptoms include swelling that occurs abruptly, redness, pain, sensitivity to different temperatures or touch, limited mobility, or a weak joint. The shoulder moves constantly when a person is active, therefore, most individuals experience shoulder pain at some point during adulthood.

Causes of Shoulder Pain 

An underlying condition is generally the cause of shoulder pain. However, shoulder discomfort may also be an indication of inflammation or damage to the muscles, tendons, or musculoskeletal tissue in the shoulder. Ailments such as internal infections, a heart attack, or tumors are causes of shoulder pain that are less common.

Jobs that place a lot of strain on the shoulder or require repetitive actions (e.g. lifting) are linked to high rates of shoulder pain. Individuals who are construction workers, welders, or professional athletes also use their shoulders extensively and this can lead to injuries and chronic pain.

Shoulder pain may also be the result of dislocated joints and bone fractures that can cause swelling in the shoulder, redness, and severe pain. Dislocated joints and fractures often develop after a person accidently falls, experiences a traumatic injury from a vehicle accident, or sustains an injury while playing sports. When the ligaments and muscles in the shoulder become severely damaged, dislocations may occur repeatedly. If an individual experiences frequent dislocations, arthritis and tissue damage may develop and cause shoulder pain.

Shoulder pain may also be caused by arthritis and the most prevalent form that leads to the development of shoulder pain is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis tends to progress slowly as individuals get older due to the weakening of bones and cartilage in the shoulder. An infection or inflammation may also be associated with osteoarthritis and this may cause pain to be felt when the shoulder is moved.

Nerve impingement or a pinched nerve in the tendons or muscles of the shoulder is another possible source of pain. The pressure that causes a nerve to become pinched hinders nerve transmission and results in limited mobility, weakness, and numbness in the shoulder. Shoulder instability is an additional condition that produces a significant amount of pain in the shoulder. Instability often occurs when the shoulder comes out of its socket due to overuse or an injury.

A condition called adhesive capsulitis or frozen shoulder is the thickening of connective tissue in the surrounding region of the shoulder that decreases mobility. When the shoulder is immobilized for extended periods, frozen shoulder may develop. People with thyroid conditions, diabetes, and heart disease are also susceptible to developing shoulder pain. 

Treatment for Shoulder Pain

The form of shoulder pain treatment that is chosen generally depends on the underlying cause of the pain. Initially, physicians review an individual’s medical history and conduct a physical examination before suggesting a treatment option. In addition, an ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, or X-ray may be used to assess the severity of the shoulder pain.

Intra-articular peripheral joint injectionsWhen the case of shoulder pain is mild, a physician will suggest heating or icing the shoulder, undergoing physical therapy, or starting a regimen of opioid medication and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). If the case is more severe and the medication is not effective, the administration of intra-articular peripheral joint injections may be suggested. The aim of the injections is to provide pain relief by reducing the inflammation of irritated nerves in the shoulder.

Patients who are interested in an alternative treatment method may undergo platelet rich plasma therapy injections and acupuncture, which are both effective at providing pain relief with minimal or in some cases no side effects. When conventional or alternative therapies are ineffective, surgical intervention may be recommended, especially if the underlying cause of the shoulder pain necessitates a more invasive form of treatment.


Shoulder pain is characterized as discomfort that is experienced in the shoulder region. The cause of shoulder pain varies widely, but most sufferers report feeling an aching pain, limited mobility, a weak shoulder joint, or swelling. The most common treatment methods are medication regimens, physical therapy, and intra-articular peripheral joint injections in certain cases.

At Pain Doctor our goal is to relieve your shoulder pain and improve function to increase your quality of life.
Give us a call today at 480-563-6400.


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