Your shoulder operates with the help of several muscles, tendons, and joints, which means that it is at risk for a variety of different sources of pain. Some of the most common orthopedic causes of shoulder pain include:
- Rotator cuff tears – Made up of a group of tendons and muscles, your rotator cuff surrounds your shoulder joint and helps to keep your upper arm secure in the shoulder socket. You can tear your rotator cuff with repeated overhead motions, like painting or playing baseball. Symptoms include pain that worsens with movement. Sometimes, physical therapy can help to relieve your symptoms. If necessary, surgery can be performed that involves either smoothing the tear or re-attaching it completely.
- Bursitis – The bursa is a small sac located between your rotator cuff and the top of your shoulder. Its job is to provide lubrication so that your rotator cuff tendons can move freely. If the bursa becomes inflamed, bursitis develops, and you will likely feel pain, tenderness, and stiffness in your shoulder. Treatments can include anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and steroid injections. Surgery could involve removing the inflamed part of the bursa with a minimally-invasive technique.
- Broken collarbone – Also known as a clavicle fracture, a broken collarbone is caused by a direct hit to the shoulder, like if you fall or are in a car accident. This injury is very painful and can make it hard to move or lift your arm. It is possible for broken collarbones to heal without surgery and with the help of a sling or physical therapy. Surgical treatment can include holding the bone fragments in place with plates, pins, or screws.
- Tendon tears – Your tendons attach bones to muscle. Your biceps tendons are located near your shoulder, and they can become torn as a result of overuse or an injury. There are different degrees of tendon tears, but both can cause pain and weakness in your shoulder and arm. Minor tears can heal over time with physical therapy and rest, but surgery that repairs the tear might be necessary for complete tendon tears.
- Shoulder instability – Characterized by repeated shoulder dislocation, shoulder instability can happen due to sudden injury or strain. This injury can lead to pain and a sensation of your shoulder feeling loose. Treatments include activity modification, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy to increase stability. Surgery can be used to repair the ligaments so they keep the shoulder in place more effectively
- Shoulder fracture – A shoulder fracture is essentially a broken bone, and they are caused by a direct blow to the area, like a car accident. Symptoms of fractures include swelling and bruising, pain, difficulty moving, and a grinding sensation when you move the shoulder. Some fractures are accompanied by swelling in the shoulder or around the collarbone. For severe cases, surgery is used to hold the bones in place so that they can heal. Non-surgical treatments include icing, pain medications, and wearing a sling.