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Painful shoulder: causes, treatment and exercises

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

The shoulders are one of the most critical and complex joints, and precisely for this reason, they will not be exempt from aches and pains. The shoulder is made up of bones, muscles, cartilage, and tendons, among other tissues and elements, and each of them presents the possibility of being injured and causing specific pain and symptoms.

Therefore, it is essential to differentiate between these situations to know the appropriate treatments. Continue reading this FastlyHealarticle to learn everything you need to know about painful shoulder: causes, treatments, and exercises.

What is the shoulder joint like?

The shoulder is the joint that connects our torso with each of the arms, this joint being of a spherical or ball-and-socket type, with a range of motion in many directions (multiaxial). Its full name is the shoulder-humeroscapular or glenohumeral joint.

It connects the clavicle, scapula (shoulder blade), and humerus at the bone level. It also includes a synovial bag, cartilage, and ligaments that attach the humerus to the glenoid. We also find the biceps tendon and the tendons belonging to the so-called rotator cuff.

Causes of shoulder pain: tendonitis and bursitis

Tendinitis refers to the inflammation of the tendons, whether due to overexertion, lack of warm-up before exercises, improper posture, sudden stretching, and even infections. The following symptoms usually accompany tendonitis:

  • Numbness (hardening)
  • Hot
  • Redness in the area of ​​inflammation
  • The shoulder pain may spread to the neck
  • Limitation of movement

On the other hand, bursitis is another type of inflammation produced in the synovial bags, which are the ones that allow the humerus and the shoulder blade to be separated and cushioned in its glenoid cavity. Symptoms are similar, but the possibility of bruising due to leakage of synovial fluid is more prominent. If the bursitis is due to an infection in the bursa, then a fever may also occur.

Causes of painful shoulder: capsulitis or frozen shoulder

Although this situation presents inflammation among its signs, it differs from the previous ones because it is more complex. Capsulitis of the shoulder results from the inflammation of the connective tissues in general. That is, ligaments, tendons, and even cartilage can present inflammation, but being several components simultaneously, they produce a greater immobilization than previous inflammations.

Shoulder capsulitis also differs because, in its more advanced stage, it continues to immobilize, but it ceases to be painful unless movement is forced. Numbness of the joint capsule is found but is very rarely red or warm.

The causes of frozen shoulder are not entirely clear, but it can last up to more than a year, and it can begin to compromise circulation to the limb.

Causes of shoulder pain: instability and tears

Another of the most common causes of the painful shoulder is the partition or tear of the muscles and tendons that allow loss of stability in the conjunction of the humerus with the clavicle, especially if the tendon ends up separating from its union with the bone, which It can lead to immediate or partial dislocation of the shoulder.

This situation will require attention for the reinsertion of the same and to take even more care of the shoulder from that moment on, as it will have a much greater predisposition to dislocation, mainly if the tears or partitions are not attended to and heal properly.

Shoulder pain from bone problems

In addition to muscle or tendon problems, there are also bone problems that cause shoulder pain :


Osteoarthritis is the inflammation of the joint’s bones, especially the humerus, due to wear of the same and cartilage, gout, infections, or specific accidents that trigger it. However, its most frequent cause is continuous wear and tear, as it tends to rise very slowly, limiting movement due to pain. Capsulitis can occur due to a lack of exercise and tension that the same person consciously applies due to pain. Still, it differs because the cause is initially found in bone inflammation.


It refers to the breaking of the bones, any of the three that make up the joint. There is severe pain, inflammation, hypersensitivity, and possible wounds visible from the outside of the very bone perceived as broken, either visually or to the touch.

Painful shoulder treatment

Treatment depends on the cause of shoulder pain, but since the leading causes are inflammatory, we will treat those treatments that address these situations:

Hot and cold therapies

The application of cold compresses following an accident or traumatic situation is necessary. In this way, inflammation is generated but without being excessive, to stop possible bleeding and tissue or tissue death. Hot cloths or compresses, on the other hand, are to help reduce the hardening and tension of the affected area 2 days after the injury originated or when it is chronic.

Natural medicine

Options such as arnica cream or gel, the consumption of turmeric, or its topical application along with hot packs, are first-line tools to treat inflammations naturally. If the cause is infectious, raw garlic can be consumed on an empty stomach or infused with ginger to maximize the antibiotic effects.

Medical and physiotherapeutic treatment

The most suggested in these cases are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the inflammatory reaction, but they are not a definitive solution. The attention of a physiotherapist and a doctor to make the pertinent evaluations makes their way to conditions of the severe or chronic painful shoulder, especially if it cannot be solved with traditional home means.

Medical care is critical because sometimes these may have systemic causes of complex inflammation, such as autoimmune tables. The medical attention and examination may indicate if what is needed is surgical intervention.

Exercises for painful shoulder

The first step to know is that limiting or eliminating routine habits that compromise joint health and recovery should be considered, even when it may appear that they do not. A physiotherapist will provide you with the appropriate exercises for each ailment, where surely those in which the least possible effort is made will stand out; this includes canceling actions against the force of gravity or lifting excessive weights.

An example of an exercise for shoulder pain is to stand and bend with the torso parallel to the floor and leave the affected arm suspended in the air, and, in this suspension, make a rocking movement to one side and the other. This is especially indicated against the frozen shoulder.

Another primary option is the push-ups with the shoulder stretch, either in front or behind the head, assisted by the force of the healthy opposite arm, using the pain as a warning of the limit of the range of motion that you must perform.

To finish, this is a very effective exercise for shoulder tendonitis and humerus fractures; it involves lifting the arms while standing:

  1. Without bending your arms, reach forward parallel to the ground, hands down, while inhaling deeply.
  2. Exhale, returning to the initial posture (arms relaxed at the sides).
  3. Start without weight and then use light dumbbells and, very little by little as the days go by, increase the difficulty.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Painful shoulder: causes, treatment and exercises , we recommend that you enter our category of Bones, joints and muscles .

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