The Most Common Causes of Shoulder Pain and How to Fix Them!

July 26, 2021

The Most Common Causes of Shoulder Pain and How to Fix Them!

You use your shoulder more than you think. When scratching your back or throwing a ball, you’re engaging the joints, tendons, and muscles in the shoulder area.

Shoulder pain or stiffness is more than a mere nuisance. It can make it difficult, sometimes impossible, to carry out daily tasks like driving, brushing your hair, or reaching for something that’s above you.

Whether you only feel pain when you move your shoulder or if it’s persistent, it takes a toll on your mobility.

Here’s what you need to know about the most common causes of shoulder pain along with general treatment options.

Anatomy of the Shoulder

(for a detailed 3D visual of the shoulder, click here)

The shoulder is made of several bones, including the humerus (arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone).

The head of the upper arm bone sits in a socket in the shoulder blade, known as the glenoid. Muscles and tendons keep the arm bone centered in the socket.

These tissues, known as the rotator cuff, enclose the head of the upper arm bone and attach it to the shoulder blade.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain and injury can be categorized into four main types, including:

  • Instability
  • Tendon inflammation or tear
  • Fracture
  • Arthritis

While shoulder pain can be caused by infection, tumors, and nerve problems, these aren’t very common.


Shoulder instability is also known as a dislocation. A dislocation is when the ball of the arm bone is outside of the shoulder socket. Instability can occur due to a sudden injury or from overuse of the shoulder.

Shoulder dislocations can be partial or complete, which means the bone is either partially or completely out of the socket.

Shoulder instability damages the tendons, muscles, and ligaments in the shoulder. It’s common for these tissues to become torn or loose, which increases the risk of repeated dislocations.

Repeated partial or full dislocations greatly increases the risk of developing arthritis in the shoulder.

Tendon Inflammation

Tendon inflammation in the shoulder is caused by two conditions: bursitis or tendinitis. Here’s what you need to know about both.


Bursae are tiny fluid-filled sacs that serve as cushions between the bones and the soft tissues. They reduce friction between the muscles and the bone.

Excessive use and overuse of the shoulder leads to inflammation. This then causes the bursa between the rotator cuff and the shoulder blade to swell, a condition known as subacromial bursitis.

Often, bursitis occurs along with rotator cuff tendinitis. Swelling in one part of the shoulder can cause inflammation and pain throughout the area.

If you have bursitis, daily activities like getting dressed or brushing your hair will be painful and difficult.


Inflammation of a tendon is known as tendinitis. In the shoulder, there are two types of tendinitis that can lead to pain and loss of mobility: acute and chronic.

Acute tendinitis is caused by excessive overhead activities or ball throwing. Chronic tendinitis is caused by repetitive wear and tear as well as degenerative diseases like arthritis.

There are several tendons in the shoulder, with tendinitis most commonly impacting the four rotator cuff tendons and the bicep tendons.


Shoulder impingement, also known as pressure in the shoulder, is when the top of the shoulder blade presses down on the underlying soft tissues. 

Impingement is most common when the arm is lifted. The lifting motion causes the acromion to rub the rotator cuff tendons along with the bursa.

Impingement not only causes limited motion and pain but can lead to bursitis and/or tendinitis.

Tendon Tears

Tendons may split or tear due to acute injury and/or degenerative changes in the tendons. Aging, wear and tear, long-term overuse, and sudden injury can all lead to tendon tears.

Tears can be partial, or the tendon may completely separate from the bone. Tendon tears on the rotator cuff and bicep tendon are most common.


Shoulder fractures usually involve the upper arm bone, collarbone, and the shoulder blade. Fractures can be caused by many things.

In older patients, fractures are commonly caused by a fall. In younger patients, shoulder fractures are caused by a contact sports injury, an automobile accident, or another kind of high energy injury.


Shoulder pain caused by arthritis is often attributed to osteoarthritis. Common symptoms of this condition are swelling, stiffness, and pain. Osteoarthritis develops slowly, with symptoms worsening over time.

Osteoarthritis is caused by work or sports injuries as well as chronic wear and tear.

Other forms of arthritis can be linked to inflammation of the joint lining, infection, and rotator cuff tears.

How to Fix Shoulder Pain

There are several options to reduce shoulder pain, including:

  • Less strenuous activity
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Stretching and strengthening
  • Physical therapy
  • Ice and heat therapy

In some cases, patients may require surgery to repair internal damage to the shoulder tissues, tendons, and muscles. However, more often than not, shoulder pain can be caused using natural and holistic approaches.

How Integrative Medicine Can Help

One of the best options for healing shoulder pain and mobility issues is with regenerative medicine and chiropractic services. This type of care not only focuses on treating the pain but addresses the underlying cause.

If you're in the Meridian, Idaho area and want to live life without shoulder pain, the team at Align Integrated Medical Clinic is here to help.

Here our team offers the best physical, regenerative, functional medicine, and chiropractic care. Our mission is to help patients get back to a life without pain and mobility issues.

We work with each patient to create a personalized care plan. Not only will our services minimize shoulder pain and mobility issues, we also target the underlying cause of shoulder pain. This encourages healing from the inside out.

Ready to get back to enjoying life? Contact us to schedule an appointment at Align Integrated Medical Clinic today!

Chad Woolner
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