Common Conditions of the Shoulder - Pain

What is it

Shoulder pain is not strictly a condition of the shoulder in that it is not a diagnosis but a symptom. It is however the most common reason for people to seek medical advice.

What are the signs and symptoms

The pain can be burning or aching. It may be a sharp stabbing pain.

The pain may be constant or may only be brought on by certain activities.

The pain may be only present or made worse at night.

Where is the pain

It may be possible to locaise the pain to a specific spot e.g. the top of the shoulder (the acromioclavicular joint) in many cases the pain is hard to pinpoint and it may be felt as pain down the side of the arm as far as the elbow (subacromial bursitis or impingement).

What are the causes

  • Glenohumeral joint arthritis
  • Acromioclavicular joint arthritis
  • Subacromial bursitis / tendonitis / impingement
  • Rotator cuff tear
  • Instability
  • Biceps tendonitis
  • SLAP lesions
  • Adhesive Capsulitis (frozen shoulder)
  • Muscle spasm
  • Cervical spine arthritis

How is the diagnosis made

As with all of the conditions once the symptoms have been described the shoulder will be examined to try to localize the pain. Plain Xrays of the shoulder will be taken. Further special tests (e.g. MRI) will be organized as necessary.

What is the treatment

As pain is a symptom, not a diagnosis, the treatment will be dependent on the final diagnosis.