Most Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is a very common condition that affects 18%-26% of adults at some point in their lives. When healthy, the shoulder is a complicated joint and is responsible for remarkable strength and dexterity. Shoulder pain and how it affects you will vary from person to person and condition to condition. If you’re wondering what causes shoulder pain, you are not alone. If you know the causes of shoulder pain, that’s one step closer to treatment and healing. Often, shoulder pain is caused by tight muscles and poor posture; other times, injury or disease could be causing shoulder pain. This article will explore the different types of shoulder pain and how to treat them. 


Shoulder dislocation is a painful injury or event that occurs when the top of the arm bone comes out of the shoulder socket. This is usually the result of a trauma of some kind, though people with general shoulder instability may see them occur at a higher rate. Many people may experience a dislocated shoulder and not know what’s wrong; getting a proper diagnosis is essential for the best treatment. Sometimes shoulder dislocation can need surgical treatment. And unfortunately, a shoulder dislocation increases the chances of developing arthritis in the shoulder. If you have a dislocated shoulder, it’s essential to seek treatment as soon as possible. 

Shoulder Instability

Shoulder instability can be a cause or result of a shoulder dislocation. With shoulder instability, the rotator cuff and other supporting structures of the shoulder weaken, leading to looseness or instability in the shoulder joint. This can lead to pain, more shoulder dislocations, loss of strength, your shoulder getting stuck in one position, and a constant sense of looseness in the shoulder joint. Shoulder instability can be caused by:

  1. Injuries, such as from sports or driving.

  2. Having your arm outstretched and falling on your arm.

  3. Reaching overhead in a repetitive fashion.

  4. Health issues like seizures, shock, or stroke.

  5. Previous shoulder dislocations.

Treatment for shoulder instability can include immobilization of your shoulder joint and physical therapy to rehabilitate the joint afterward. Sometimes, surgery is an option to repair an unstable shoulder that’s prone to dislocation. 


The inflammatory condition, arthritis, can cause pain in the shoulder, specifically in the acromioclavicular joint on the top of the shoulder. This is the joint that connects your collar bone to your shoulder and is also called the AC joint. Arthritis can wear away the supple cartilage tissue that protects the bones of a joint. This can lead to damaged or rough cartilage tissue and the formation of bone spurs in response to bone trauma. Bone spurs are bony formations that can develop along the inside of a joint due to inflammation from arthritis. They are a primary cause of loss of range of motion and movement and can be incredibly painful. Other symptoms include swelling, pain, and stiffness, which tend to worsen over time. 

Shoulder arthritis can be treated medically with medications and surgery, but in the vast majority of cases, about 90% will respond to basic shoulder care treatment. This includes modification of activities, resting the afflicted shoulder, strengthening exercises, physical therapy, and NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Surgery for arthritis can be as simple as an arthroscopic procedure to remove scar tissue to a complete joint replacement. 

Poor Posture

It may seem obvious that poor posture can cause shoulder pain, but did you know that it can also precipitate pain in your shoulder outside of muscular tension and misalignment? A study found that poor posture increased incidences of tears in the rotator cuff. Correcting your posture with good practice and by strengthening underused posture muscles like the abdomen can reduce shoulder pain caused by poor posture. Poor posture causes shoulder pain by bringing your muscles out of alignment, stretching, and weakening certain muscle groups. In contrast, other muscles have to overwork to compensate, which leads to tension and tightness. When sitting, good posture looks like your shoulders over your hips, your abs slightly engaged, your feet flat on the floor, and your arms supported evenly without any pinch points. 

Rotator Cuff Issues

  • Tendonitis

When your biceps tendon or rotator cuff becomes inflamed, this is called shoulder tendonitis. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the condition. Your rotator cuff is the group name for the tendons and muscles that secure the top of your arm bone into your shoulder joint socket. It’s essential for the healthy movement of your shoulder joint. With shoulder tendonitis, a tendon may be pinched by other shoulder parts, like a bone or another tendon. You can treat your tendonitis by:

    1. Resting your shoulder.

    2. Icing the affected area.

    3. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

    4. Stretching and exercising the affected shoulder.

    5. Physical therapy.

    6. Ultrasound therapy.

    7. Corticosteroids.

    8. Surgery for severe cases.

  • Bursitis

Bursitis of the shoulder is also often called shoulder impingement, which is about as fun as it sounds. Symptoms of shoulder bursitis are redness and swelling at the end of the shoulder where it connects to the arm bone. This painful condition is typically caused by using it too much or an injury. Infection can also cause shoulder bursitis. Part of your shoulder’s intricate construction includes tissue that’s called a Bursa Sac. The Bursa Sac is a specially designed, fluid-filled sack that cushions the shoulder joint and allows the bones and joints to have a full range of motion. People with physically active professions or hobbies who use their shoulders and arms a great deal may be more prone to this condition. These include jobs like painting, playing music, and weightlifting.

Because bursitis is an inflammatory condition, it responds well to rest and NSAIDs. Try to rest as much as possible and see if the inflammation will subside on its own. Use ice or cold gel packs on your shoulder, wrapped in a cloth for 15-20 minutes several times a day. Ask your doctor for a shoulder brace if you need to return to work

  • Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff tear is a traumatic event to the shoulder that leads to injury or tearing of the rotator cuff and tendons. It is the most common tendon injury seen in adults. They can be caused by an event, like a car crash or a fall, or overwork leading to an injury of the shoulder joint, like lifting one too many heavy boxes onto a shelf. Poor posture can lead to an increased rate of rotator cuff tears. The standard treatments for shoulder pain apply here: rest, ice, modify your activities as much as possible, use NSAIDs, and do physical therapy. Corticosteroids may be helpful, albeit their effects remain active for different lengths of time for different people. Some people see relief for weeks, others for months or even years.

YouMari for Shoulder Pain

If your shoulder pain responds well to stretching, exercises, physical therapy, and massage, then YouMari is right for you! YouMari is a brilliant self-treatment program that assesses your condition and then creates a customized program of muscle relaxing stretches, strengthening exercises and self-massage. Most people experience immediate relief after one YouMari session, and you’ll be supported by calendar reminders, equipment lists, and more. Try YouMari today and feel the difference excellent self-treatment can make.