Swelling, damage, or bone changes around the rotator cuff in your shoulder can cause pain that puts a kink in the activities of your life. Let's talk about shoulder pain.
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that attach to the bones of your shoulder joint. The group allows your shoulder to move and keep it stable. The most common cause of shoulder pain is when rotator cuff tendons become inflamed or trapped in your shoulder. This is called rotator cuff tendinitis, or irritation of these tendons and inflammation of the bursa (small slippery fluid filled sacs that the tendons glide over). A rotator cuff tear, when one of the tendons is torn from overuse or injury, can also cause intense shoulder pain.
Other causes of shoulder pain can include arthritis, bone spurs (bony projections), a broken shoulder bone, frozen shoulder (when the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your shoulder become stiff), and shoulder dislocation.
Most of the time, you can take care of your shoulder pain at home. Try putting ice on your shoulder for 15 minutes, then leave it off for 15 minutes, three or four times a day for a few days. Make sure you wrap the ice in cloth, so it doesn't give you frostbite. Take ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling. Slowly return to your regular activities once you start feeling less pain.
Sudden shoulder pain can be a sign of a heart attack. Call Emergency Services if you have sudden pressure or crushing pain in your shoulder, especially if the pain starts in your chest, jaw, or neck.
If you fall on your shoulder and feel sudden intense pain, you should see a doctor because you may have torn rotator cuff or dislocated your shoulder.
If you have had shoulder pain before, try using ice and ibuprofen after exercising. Learn proper exercises to stretch and strengthen your rotator cuff tendons and shoulder muscles. Also, physical therapy can help. Make an appointment and talk about your options.
Review Date: 2/26/2016
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.