Depending on the cause of the problem, the characteristics of shoulder pain vary, and they can be felt in different ways. All the time, or only when you turn your shoulder, you can experience shoulder pain, and the problem may be temporary or continue (requiring medical diagnosis and therapy).
There is usually a gradual onset of pain with tendonitis (inflammation in the tendons) and bursitis (when fluid builds up in the sac of fluid that surrounds the shoulder joint known as the bursa) and you may have trouble sleeping on the affected shoulder.
A frozen shoulder can cause discomfort, stiffness and reduced shoulder movement.
How shoulder pain can affect you
Your shoulders provide the flexibility to raise and move your arms freely. So you may find daily things like combing your hair and getting ready challenging while they are in pain. Painful shoulders can also make playing sports, lifting heavy boxes or reaching over your head pain.
Why do we experience shoulder pain?
There are many reasons why you can feel pain in your shoulder. It can be caused, for instance, by tendon inflammation (bursitis, tendonitis) or a torn tendon or moderate osteoarthritis (see also knee osteoarthritis exercises), which can lead to shoulder pain and discomfort.
Bursitis, tendonitis and tears
tendonitis (the wearing down of the tendon due to overuse that develops progressively over time) or bursitis (inflammation of the ‘cushions’ (known as bursa) between the bones and overlying soft tissues) may cause shoulder pain.
Pain can occur when a tendon tears due to injury or long-term overuse; as our tendons weaken with age, it becomes more frequent as we get older.
Painful shoulder conditions
Shoulder impingement syndrome may cause pain when the tendons in the muscle get stuck and repeatedly scrape against the bone above. Some people often suffer from pain in the shoulder joint or ‘frozen shoulder’ a painful stiffness that develops when inflamed by the flexible tissue surrounding the shoulder joint.
You may use drugs that can be taken orally or applied directly to the shoulder, and which are available from your pharmacy, to alleviate shoulder pain. You can also find that it may help to reduce the pain through heat or cold packs. It is recommended that you see a doctor who can perform a physical examination to look for any abnormalities, deformity, swelling, tenderness or muscle weakness, as well as to check the range of motion and strength of your shoulder if you are experiencing extreme pain or pain that worsens. Also, they can order tests for imaging (e.g. an X-ray). Your doctor can recommend gentle stretching exercises and physical therapy to help you heal.