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Causes of Shoulder Pain in Adults

Shoulder pain doesn't only cause great discomfort but also hinders your capability to use our upper body and move freely.

जून 28, 2021


The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints of our body. 

Shoulder pain doesn’t only cause great discomfort but also hinders your capability to use your upper body and move freely.

Physical factors like lifting heavy weights in awkward positions, movement with the wrong posture, and irregular vibrations (occupational reasons)  impact the magnitude of severity.

Some conditions such as cervical spine (neck), liver, heart or gallbladder disease can also cause the pain.

It is a ball and socket type of joint with the humerus (long arm bone) that fits into the cavity of the shoulder blade bone (scapula). 

In minor cases, the pain can be treated at home. However, sometimes physiotherapy, medications or operative interventions may also be needed.

Causes of Shoulder Pain In Adults
Causes of Shoulder Pain In Adults

Causes of Shoulder Pain


There are many factors that can lead to shoulder pain. One of the most common causes is rotator cuff tendinitis.

It happens when the tendons that make up your rotator cuff  (muscles around the shoulder joint) get inflamed. It may happen gradually due to repeated trauma or as the result of a direct hit to your shoulder.

Other causes of shoulder pain are:-



If the shoulder is pulled outwards, backwards or downwards too hard or rotated too much, the arm can get out of its socket. One may feel instability, weakness, pain, swelling or numbness in your shoulder.



Arthritis is a disease that causes inflammation of one or multiple joints. There are different types of arthritis and each is treated in a different way. The most common kinds of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The shoulder is a common joint to be affected by arthritis causing pain and movement restriction.


Frozen Shoulder

The medical term adhesive capsulitis in common nomenclature is called frozen shoulder. It is a shoulder ailment that restricts your range of motion in all directions. When the tissues in the shoulder joint capsule become thick and tight, scar tissue starts developing. The outcome of that is, your shoulder joint gets less space to rotate properly.



This condition occurs when the tendons or bursa of the rotator cuff get pinched in the bones of the shoulder. It causes intense pain and swelling. People with frequent overhead activities may suffer from it.



The bursa can get swollen and inflamed if one repeats the same kinds of motions over and over again. It may also be caused by a fall or injury. If someone suffers from bursitis,  movement restriction with pain is common.


Avascular Necrosis

Avascular necrosis or osteonecrosis is the collapse of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply. It can lead to tiny fractures in the bone and then lead to the bone’s eventual collapse. 


Faulty Arm Mechanics

Improper sports biomechanics such as in cricket or badminton where overhead arm movements are common can lead to the above causes. Lifting too heavy with the wrong posture may strain neck and shoulder muscles. Sleeping over an arm for long may cause one-sided pain too.

Prevention of Shoulder Pain

Regular shoulder exercises can help to strengthen shoulder muscles and rotator cuff tendons. A physical therapist or a physical exercise trainer can help one learn the right form for exercises and prevent further pain by correct muscular strengthening.

Use of ice, NSAIDS, rest from repeated or overhead movements and strengthening in the later stage can help regain the lost movements and achieve pain-free shoulder.



Mitchell C, Adebajo A, Carr A, Shoulder pain Diagnosis and management in primary care, BMJ 2005, 331(7525):1124-8.

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