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Shoulder Pain

Disease Process

Most problems with the shoulder joint involve soft tissue (muscles, ligaments or tendons).


Common causes of shoulder pain include:


Should pain can stay right in the shoulder joint itself, or it can radiate up into the neck or down the arm (common sites are the outside of the upper arm).

Call 911 if you feel sudden pressure or crushing pain in your shoulder, especially if it extends from your chest, jaw, or neck, or occurs with shortness of breath, dizziness or sweating. Very sudden shoulder pain can, occasionally, be a sign of a heart attack.

If you just had a severe blow or injury and your painful shoulder is swollen, badly bruised, or bleeding, get safely to an emergency room where they will check for a fracture or dislocation.

Contact your doctor if :

  • You have fever, swelling, or redness.
  • You are unable to use the joint.
  • Your pain lasts more than 1-2 weeks despite self-care measures.


    If your shoulder pain has not gone away on its own and you visit your medical provider, they may do the following:

    • Take a detailed medical history.
    • Do a physical examination of the neck and arm.
    • Order x-rays or an MRI to rule out other causes or determine if there has been an injury to the joint.

    Current Treatment

    Treatment of shoulder pain will vary depending on what the cause of the symptoms is determined to be. In general; rest, ice and NSAIDS are the first form of treatment recommended.

    How Can Physical Therapy Help

    A physical therapist will evaluate your symptoms and help determine the cause of pain. Goals of physical therapy are to decrease pain and improve function. Actual treatment will vary depending on the reason for the pain, but may include some of the following:

    Patient Resources
    American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons

  • Disease Process
    Physical Therapy
    Patient Resources


    The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body.

    The joint has 4 tendons, called the rotator cuff, that stabilize the upper arm bone (humerus) to the shoulder socket.

    The 4 rotator cuff muscles are:

  • Supraspinatus
  • Infraspinatus
  • Subscapularis
  • Teres Minor

  • Megan Hubbard, DPT © 2005   |  disclaimer