Signs and Symptoms of Pain in Shoulder Joints


Human shoulder is considered as one of the most mobile of all joints which can bend in all possible directions. As shoulder is flexible its muscles are also important for normal functioning, movements, and coordination. Shoulder pain is a condition which arises when our muscles are not strong enough or uncoordinated in proportion to our body. It’s a very common problem followed by an injury. The shoulder can move in various different planes. The shoulder pain causes pain and comfort as it restricts its free movement. It’s a ball-and-socket joint and one of the most flexible joint in our body. The shoulder consists of three bones namely humerus, clavicle and scapula. These bones have a covering of cartilage and consist of two main joints. The shoulder joint is basically ball-shaped and lies in between humerus bone and scapula respectively. Shoulders get their elasticity from rotator cuff which is made of tendons that connect muscles to bone. Shoulder pain or injury happens during vigorous exercise, manual labor, playing sports, lifting heavy items etc. Most of the times disease of neck, liver or gallbladder, run through the shoulder causing it to pain which makes it difficult to twist or bend. Pain also arises due to heart attack, spinal cord injury, arthritis or breaking a shoulder etc. Mostly pain in the front or outside of the shoulder is due to some problem in rotator cuff which can lead to difficulty in raising your arm. Shoulder pain is considered as a life-long problem if correct diagnosis and treatment are not taken. Treatments like popping painkillers, using ice packs, physiotherapy, injections of steroids, or surgery etc help to reduce inflammation or swelling and also relieve pain. Sometimes medical history of the patient, physical examination and few tests like X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, arthroscopy etc can help for better diagnosis of the pain and its treatment.

Shoulder pain symptoms
The shoulder pain is the first sign of difficulty in moving our shoulders resulting in its stiffness. It is a pain that occurs in and around the shoulder. The origin of pain is usually from tendons, ligaments, muscles, bones, joints etc.

  • Shoulder problems are common among all races and ethnic backgrounds. It is felt mostly in a localized section, in the arm covering a larger area or it runs down along the nerves in the shoulder. The common shoulder pain symptom observed is frozen shoulder characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint which prevents in moving our arm. The shoulder pain symptoms worsen over time and can be resolved within two-three years if properly diagnosed and treated. The frozen shoulder develops slowly in three stages. Firstly, freezing stage in which shoulder shows a limited range of motion. Secondly, the frozen stage where shoulder becomes completely stiff and moving it becomes more difficult. Lastly, thawing stage where motion in our shoulder starts improving.
  • Shoulder pain is experienced while doing routine tasks like combing hair, lifting heavy things from the shelves, doing sports activities, writing, vigorous exercise etc. Initially, the pain starts in front of the shoulder region and then extends to the lateral part of the arm. In such cases, weakness occurs and there is a loss of control of arm movements.
  • In certain cases, sudden downfall, accidents or injuries are other shoulder pain symptoms. Extreme weakness and loss of control occur when the arms are lifted overhead.
  • Swelling in and around the shoulder joint or swollen shoulder is a major indication of severe shoulder pain. Also, rotator cuff or cartilage injury is associated with pain in the shoulder. Sometimes infections and insect bites can cause swelling in the shoulder leading to redness and patchy skin.
  • Pinched nerves are also a significant sign of shoulder pain. It mostly happens when we sleep in one position for long like keeping the elbows bend while sleeping, a nerve compression of ligaments, tendons, bone etc. Nerve damage may be severe or minor and can cause temporary or long-lasting problems. Nerve pinch can lead to excruciating pain in the shoulder joints which can be cured with proper diagnosis and medication.
  • Systemic factors like numbness, weight loss, chest pain, fatigue, shoulder instability, fever, repetitive stress, history of injury or fear of recurrence etc. are the symptoms of chronic shoulder pain.

Shoulder pain can have a significant impact on the motor functions of our body. It is mostly due to the structure supporting the shoulder joint or can also arise due to problems external to the shoulder. Shoulder pain can be successfully treated under the supervision of physical therapist that helps to improve the patient’s mechanics and strength with improved bodily movements. In extreme cases, orthopadic surgeons are consulted for fractures or tendon tears. Shoulder pain can be treated better by understanding the anatomy of that region.