Do you have shoulder pain? Learn about five medical conditions that might cause shoulder pain

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You have three different bones in your shoulder, your humerus or arm bone, your scapula or shoulder blade, and your clavicle or collarbone. In addition to these bones, your shoulder is surrounded by muscles and tendons that help to provide support, strength, and stability.

People of all ages may experience shoulder problems and shoulder pain at one time or another. Many shoulder injuries happen simply because the tissues in the shoulder wear down. Tissue wear and tear in the shoulder can happen as a result of injury and it can also happen as a normal part of the aging body.

Certain sports activities that involve a lot of overhead motion may put you at an increased risk for a shoulder injury like for example swimming, tennis, volleyball, baseball pitching, or weightlifting. Doing certain repetitive activities over an extended period of time like heavy lifting or overhead assembly work may also lead to shoulder problems.

Sometimes when people experience a shoulder injury, they have pain in a very isolated spot in their shoulder. Other times people experience a more general all around shoulder pain. Sometimes shoulder pain gets more severe during certain times of the day. For example, rotator cuff tears often generate an increase in nighttime pain, especially if you sleep on the shoulder that has the damage.

If you feel like your shoulder might come out of socket or if your shoulder is much weaker than normal, you should see a medical professional for an evaluation as soon as possible.

5 Medical Conditions That May Cause Shoulder Pain

According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgery, around 7.5 million people in the U.S. went to the doctor for a shoulder problem in 2006. More than half of these visits were for rotator cuff injuries.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, there are a number of things that it could be. Here are 5 medical conditions that cause shoulder pain.

1. Arthritis – Many people experience arthritis in the shoulder. One of the most common types of arthritis in the shoulder is typically caused just by the passage of time. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that happens when the cartilage that provides a cushioning between bones wears out and the bones touch each other. This is very painful and is a common reason why people have shoulder surgery. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by chronic inflammation that also causes a loss of cartilage leading to intense pain.

2. Shoulder Tendinitis is caused by inflammation in your shoulder joint. If you are suffering from shoulder tendinitis, you will likely feel pain and stiffness in your shoulder. Shoulder tendinitis may happen over time and it can also be the result of a traumatic event. If you are an athlete engaged in activities that require a lot of shoulder movement like golf, swimming, tennis or baseball, your tendons can become damaged. Incorrect technique is often to blame for shoulder tendinitis. Tendinitis becomes increasingly common as people age. Tendons are more prone to tearing over time as they become less stretchy and less tolerant of impact.

3. Rotator Cuff Injury – Your rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles that join together to cover the top of your humerus and attach it to your shoulder blade. Your rotator cuff helps your arm lift and rotate. Tears to the rotator cuff tendons are common and may include partial or complete tears. If you tear your rotator cuff, it can make every day activities a challenge. Even things like washing and brushing your hair can become difficult. Some of the most common types of pain associated with a rotator cuff tear include pain when you lift things, and discomfort when you put pressure or lay down on the injured shoulder. If you experience an injury-related rotator cuff tear, it may cause severe pain paired with a popping feeling in your shoulder.

4. SLAP Tear – Abbreviated for “Superior Labral tear from Anterior to Posterior,” a SLAP tear involves an injury to the Glenoid labrum in your shoulder. This is the cartilage that goes around your shoulder socket. A SLAP injury may be caused by a dislocated shoulder, a rough fall, or during participation in overhead sporting activities like baseball pitching or tennis. The pain associated with a SLAP injury includes discomfort when moving the shoulder in certain ways, and when lifting, especially over your head. It is frequently accompanied by a decrease in strength and range of motion.

5. Osteonecrosis or Avascular Necrosis – This very uncomfortable condition happens due to a restriction in blood flow. When bone cells do not get enough blood supply, they cannot live. Over the long term, this condition can cause shoulder joint problems since blood cells die without adequate blood supply. It may also cause arthritis over the long term. Things that may put you at increased risk for osteonecrosis include sickle cell disease, alcoholism, long term use of steroids, and deep sea diving.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain that will not go away with rest, you may want to seek medical attention. A thorough medical examination will help provide you with the information you need to address your shoulder pain. Your orthopedic doctor will likely want to ask you about your medical history and symptoms, conduct a physical exam, and may also request certain imaging tests like X-rays or MRI scans.

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