Common Causes of Shoulder Pain;

Shoulder pain is extremely common across all age spectrums.  Different *problems* arise in different age groups.  As we age, our tissues change.

In children the cartilage of the shoulder  is weaker than the rotator cuff of the shoulder.  Therefore children rarely  suffer rotator cuff injuries. 

In adults the rotator cuff is weaker and more prone to injury.

Traumatic versus Overuse Shoulder Injuries

Acute trauma and chronic overuse injuries can affect the shoulder in both children and adults.  

Children tend to suffer more traumatic injuries to the shoulder, than overuse injuries to the shoulder.  The opposite is true in the adult shoulder.  

Following trauma to the shoulder, children tend to suffer cartilage tears, labral tears (SLAP lesions) or instability (dislocations)—  Children who pitch too often, play volleyball or swim will potentially suffer from overuse injuries such as inflammation of the tendons and muscles in the shoulder.  

The most common source of shoulder pain in the adult is usually due to a lifetime of use… not necessarily overuse.   Most adults with shoulder pain will have of one of the many rotator cuff disorders that exist.  

The most common causes of shoulder pain include:

I elaborate in much more detail in this section of shoulder related disorders

If you sustained an injury and your pain lasts more than a few days, or if it worsens, talk to your doctor.  Many shoulder pain patients have difficulty sleeping at night—and this will usually precipitate a visit to a doctor sooner rather than later.

I will briefly discuss rotator cuff injuries in the next few sections.  If you know you have a rotator cuff injury or tear, please click here to visit the Rotator Cuff discussion.

Disclaimer:  this information is for your education and should not be considered medical advice regarding diagnosis or treatment recommendations. Some links on this page may be affiliate links. Read the full disclaimer.

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About the author:

Howard J. Luks, MD

Howard J. Luks, MD

A Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon in Hawthorne, NY. Dr. Howard Luks specializes in the treatment of the shoulder, knee, elbow, and ankle. He has a very "social" patient centric approach and believes that the more you understand about your issue, the more informed your decisions will be. Ultimately your treatments and his recommendations will be based on proper communications, proper understanding, and shared decision-making principles – all geared to improve your quality of life.

7 comments on “What are the most common causes of shoulder pain?

  • I am 39 years old and have had problems with my left shoulder for almost a year. Started with just alot of popping and nagging pain when my arm was just hung down beside me or not using it. Seen orthopedic doctor and x-ray showed a bone spur and alot of arthritis. He put me Voltaren xr 100 mg and put me doing band exercises to strengthen rotator cuff and stop weight training for 4 weeks. Seem to help some but after I return to weight training even at lighter weight pain came back worse and without the Voltaren I was in alot of pain and 800mg Ibuprofen 3 times a day didn’t work. So started having issues with shoulder pain when I slept so went back to orthopedic doctor he sent me for mri and showed no tear but alot of inflammation around bicep tendon and ac joint. So he gave me steroid shot in bicep tendon. Seem to get rid of the nagging pain when arm was not in use beside me but still had issues with shoulder especially sleeping. So went back he then gave me steroid shot in my ac joint. Initially afterwards shoulder felt great like brand new. I laid off weights and band exercises for 2 weeks. Started back weight training and band exercises and about a month after that I got to where I couldn’t raise my left arm up without alot of pain especially in the morning and shoulder pain when I sleep has gotten worse haven’t sleep more then 4 hrs max in 3 to 4 months. Ive tried switching to machines instead of free weights and lowered weight and icing shoulder. I really don’t want to get another mri since this is a new year and would have to meet my deductible again. So would like some advice I what you think is wrong and what I should do thanks.

    • Kenny .. AC Joint arthritis is a very common source of pain weight lifters … The pain will likely persist as long as you work out. There is no need for a repeat MRI .. you know the diagnosis. Surgery is a possible alternative to treat AC joint arthritis.. but you need to review those options with your doctor.

      Good Luck

  • Thanks for your advice. Is there any other excerices beside the band exercises you do with your elbow tucked to your side and pull in and out with your shoulder to strengthen my shoulder or is that the main one that strengthens the rotator cuff? And is this the exercise I would need to be doing for ac joint problems?

    • AC Joint pain usually doesn’t respond to physical therapy. Usually… but sometimes it might. There are no specific exercises for the ACJ.

  • So do you think I need ac joint resection? The steroid shot in my ac joint did not last very long for me. I would love to have a normal night sleep again and to be able to continue my fitness regimen. Thanks for all your advice!

  • Have any of your patients with shouler problems ever seen postive results taking glucosamine chondroition with msm?

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