Shoulder pain includes any pain that arises in or around your shoulder. Shoulder pain may originate in the joint itself, or from any of the many surrounding muscles, ligaments or tendons. Shoulder pain usually worsens with activities or movement of your arm or shoulder.
Certain diseases and conditions affecting structures in your chest or abdomen, such as heart disease or gallbladder disease, also may cause shoulder pain. Shoulder pain that arises from some other structure is called "referred pain." Referred shoulder pain usually doesn't worsen when you move your shoulder.
To relieve shoulder pain you might:
- Try an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to help relieve pain and swelling. Options include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).
- Avoid using your shoulder in ways that cause or worsen pain.
- Apply an ice pack to your painful shoulder for 15 to 20 minutes a few times each day.
Schedule a doctor's visit
Make an appointment with your doctor if your shoulder pain is accompanied by:
- Tenderness and warmth around the joint
Seek immediate medical attention
Ask someone to drive you to urgent care or the emergency room if your shoulder pain is caused by an injury and is accompanied by:
- A joint that appears deformed
- Inability to use the joint
- Intense pain
- Sudden swelling
Call 911 or emergency medical assistance
Shoulder pain accompanied by difficulty breathing or a sense of tightness in the chest may be a symptom of a heart attack and requires immediate medical attention.
Seek emergency help when your shoulder pain is accompanied by:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Bleeding as the result of an injury
- Exposed bone or tendon
Sep. 11, 2010
- Ferri FF. Shoulder pain. In: Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2011. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/book/player/linkTo?type=bookPage&isbn=978-0-323-05610-6&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05610-6..00054-8--s0170. Accessed Aug. 3, 2010.
- Shoulder pain. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00065. Accessed Aug. 3, 2010.
- Martin SD, et al. Shoulder pain. In: Firestein GS, et al. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/212819723-4/0/1807/279.html?tocnode=55731671&fromURL=279.html#4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-3285-4..10040-3_1134. Accessed Aug. 3, 2010.
- Burbank KM, et al. Chronic shoulder pain: Part I. Evaluation and diagnosis. American Family Physician. 2008;77:453.
- Anderson BC, et al. Evaluation of the patient with shoulder complaints. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Aug. 3, 2010.