Leading Causes of Shoulder Pain

May 17, 2023
Leading Causes of Shoulder Pain
Shoulder pain is common in Americans, but do you know what causes it? Read on to find out the leading causes of shoulder pain (and try to avoid them)!

Believe it or not, your shoulder is a complex part of your body. You’ve got bones, tendons, ligaments, joints, muscles, and a rotator cuff to consider — and any one of those parts can cause you pain.

Many people develop more shoulder pain as they age, but that’s not the only reason for pain in the shoulder area. In fact, shoulder pain affects up to 26% of the population

Here at Carolina Joint and Arthritis, determining the cause of your shoulder pain is high on our priority list. Once our team knows the specific issue you’re dealing with, we can design a custom treatment plan for you to enable you to return to normal life as soon as possible.

Causes of shoulder pain

In our experience, the leading causes of shoulder pain fall into four categories:

Tendon inflammation

Tendons are cords of tissue that connect muscle to bone. This category of injuries can include:

  • Bursitis — swelling of the small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the shoulder joint
  • Tendonitis — inflammation of the tendons that connect muscles to bones
  • Tendon tears — partial or complete tear of the tendon from the bone
  • Rotator cuff and bicep tendon injuries


Instability occurs when the head of your upper arm bone is forced out of the socket by sudden injury — usually an athletic injury or a fall. This shoulder dislocation can be partial or complete. Symptoms can include intense pain, a visibly deformed shoulder, and swelling or bruising.

If the ligaments, tendons, and muscles in your shoulder become loose, dislocations can happen more frequently, which can lead to an increased risk of arthritis.


While there are many types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the most common type in the shoulder. This arthritis results from wear and tear throughout the years. Symptoms include swelling, pain, and stiffness, all of which grow worse over time. If you try to limit your shoulder movements to limit the pain, this may actually lead to tightening of the joint, increasing your pain.


A fracture, or broken bone, in the shoulder can affect the collarbone, upper arm bone, or shoulder blade. Fractures cause severe pain and swelling, and usually result from a fall or from a high-energy injury, such as a car accident. 

If anything on this list sounds familiar and you want to find out exactly what’s causing your shoulder pain, the expert team at Carolina Joint and Arthritis is here to help. Just call our office in Wilmington, North Carolina, or fill out our online appointment request form, and we’ll be in touch soon!