4 Causes of Chronic Shoulder Pain

4 causes of chronic shoulder pain

As one of the largest and most complex joints in the body, the shoulder is a group of tendons, ligaments, muscles, and bones that work together to give your arm strength and range of motion. The shoulder is vulnerable to issues from overuse, acute injury, and conditions like arthritis. 

If you’re dealing with shoulder pain that doesn’t resolve on its own, a visit to an orthopedic physician can help you get to the root of the problem. Orthopedic surgeon, and shoulder and sports medicine specialist, Joel Hurt, MD, provides top-quality orthopedic care to the Austin and Marble Falls community. Dr. Hurt diagnoses and treats a range of orthopedic issues, including chronic shoulder pain. 

#1 Rotator cuff tear

Sometimes the muscles or tendons that surround and support the shoulder joint will tear. If you experience shoulder pain that worsens with movement and is noticeable at night when falling asleep, you may have a rotator cuff tear

Nighttime shoulder pain is characteristic of a rotator cuff tear. This type of shoulder injury also causes pain when lifting your arm overhead, and you may also notice weakness in your shoulder. 

Rotator cuff tears can occur suddenly due to injury or can happen after repeated motion over time. People who play sports like baseball are at risk of rotator cuff tears. The rotator cuff also weakens as you age.

#2 Rotator cuff bursitis and tendonitis

The rotator cuff is a group of four vital muscles and the tendons that connect the muscles to the upper arm bone. Small sacs near the shoulder joint called bursae help lubricate the joint to prevent friction. 

Bursitis occurs when these sacs become irritated or inflamed. The shoulder is one of the most common areas for bursitis. It can cause significant pain, especially with movement. Repetitive movement is a risk factor for bursitis.

Tendonitis happens when the tendon that connects shoulder muscles to bone becomes inflamed. Both tendonitis and bursitis cause pain that is felt in the front and side of the shoulder. Stiffness is also common.

#3 Shoulder impingement

Sometimes referred to as frozen shoulder, impingement happens when the top outer edge of the shoulder blade grinds against the rotator cuff. Sudden pain when you move your arm backward or raise it overhead is the most prominent symptom. This type of shoulder problem is common in people who play sports like baseball, volleyball, and tennis. It’s also common in swimmers. 

#4 Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis. Referred to as “wear-and-tear” arthritis, OA occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joint breaks down. This usually happens gradually over time. Age is a risk factor for OA. Jobs or sports that involve repetitive shoulder movement increase wear-and-tear on the shoulder joint as well. 

Shoulder osteoarthritis causes pain in the back of the shoulder, usually described as a deep ache. Pain and stiffness are also common. OA reduces range of motion, making it difficult to reach behind your back. 

Sometimes an old shoulder injury accelerates the degenerative process, resulting in osteoarthritis years later. 

Help for chronic shoulder pain

If you’re struggling with chronic shoulder pain, we can help. Get started today by calling or booking online to schedule a visit with Dr. Hurt. 

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