The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the human body. This particular joint includes four tendons, having the function of holding the muscle to the bone. Any swelling, inflammation, tears or bony changes around these tendons causes pain when a person tries to move the arm in a given direction.

Common causes of shoulder pain include:

The most common cause for shoulder pain is bursitis or rotator cuff tendonitis or tendinopathy. Shoulder pain might also occur due to one of the below:

  • Strains from overexertion or overload
  • Arthritis – osteoarthritis/rheumatoid arthritis
  • Tendinitis from repetitive overuse
  • Pinched nerves
  • Dislocation/subluxation
  • Fractures of the collarbone or Humerus upper arm
  • Joint instability
  • Frozen shoulder/adhesive capsulitis
  • Pulled muscles – sprains or injuries to the ligaments – strains
  • Damage to one of the surrounding tendons – torn rotator cuff
  • Poor sitting posture ie. hunching over a computer all day

Common Pain symptoms

  • Restricted range of motion;
  • Loss of strength in your shoulder
  • Shoulder pain and stiffness, pain can refer further down the arm
  • Difficulty in doing everyday tasks, such as bathing, driving a car, dressing and sleeping comfortably; and/or
  • Problems with accomplishing tasks that require you to put one arm behind your back.

The shoulder not just a simple joint – it’s a complex structure of muscles and tendons (which hold your muscles to your bones). All these moving parts mean things can go wrong, which is why so many people have shoulder problems at some point.

Shoulder Parts

Your shoulder has three bones: the top of your upper arm (the humerus bone) fits into a hole called a socket in your shoulder blade (the scapula bone). A combination of muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff keeps the bone centred in the socket and connects it to your shoulder blade.


Small fluid-filled sacs called bursas cushion the connections between your bones. If you make the same motion with your shoulder too often – like throwing a ball or lifting something over your head – these sacs can get inflamed. When you have bursitis, even simple things, like getting dressed or combing your hair, can really hurt.


Tendons can wear away slowly over time. Conditions that inflame your joints, like arthritis, can cause it, too. In your shoulder, the tendons of your rotator cuff and biceps are most likely to have problems.

Tendon Tear

They can happen slowly over time or suddenly – after a turn or twist – usually in the tendons of your rotator cuff or biceps. It hurts and keeps you from moving your shoulder easily. Depending on your age and severity of the injury, your shoulder might improve with time and treatments.


If you have it in your shoulder, it’s usually called osteoarthritis. That’s when the cartilage which covers and protects the ends of your joint, breaks down. Along with causing pain and swelling, it also can make the joint hard to move. It often starts in middle age and is caused by wear and tear, and gets worse over time.


It’s the same for most shoulder injuries: rest and physiotherapy – a combination of massage, strength training, and special exercises that help you rebuild shoulder strength and range of motion.

Shoulder Treatment

  • Manual therapy – stretching, mobilising, manipulating
  • Massage
  • Therapeutic ultrasound
  • Dry Needling
  • Postural Reeducation
  • Exercise prescription
  • Taping

Self Help

  • Pain relief medication
  • Exercises – for better range of motion, strengthening muscle tendon structures
  • Rest
  • Cold pack/hot pack
  • Stretching
Shoulder Pain