4 main causes of shoulder pain

By Sally Ann Quirke, Chartered Physiotherapist | Filed under: Shoulder Pain


Main Causes of Shoulder Pain
Anatomy of the Shoulder

Causes of shoulder pain.

There can be many causes of shoulder pain - each one often requires a different approach to treatment and relief. However, I think it’s worthwhile going through the four main causes that I see at my clinic. These are:

  • Related to your neck;
  • Related to your posture;
  • resulting from shoulder dislocation; and
  • related to degeneration of the shoulder joint over time.

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Now, let’s look at each of these in turn:

  1. Neck-related shoulder pain: This is where impinged nerves in your neck refer pain into your shoulder area. The neck is closely connected to your shoulder both anatomically and by nerve referral.

    If the muscles or nerves of your neck are tight or impinged they may cause pain in your shoulder. This is due to the fact that they pass over your neck and shoulder, and are often involved in both shoulder and neck movements. Treatment of this type of shoulder pain requires attention to both the neck and shoulder areas.

  2. Posture-related shoulder pain: This is where poor postural habits (lack of good posture!) in your neck, upper back and shoulder can result in strain being placed on the shoulder joint, ligaments, tendons and muscles causing shoulder pain.

    Treatment of this type of shoulder pain requires posture correction as well as treating the painful tissue. Postural correction aims to eliminate the cause which is the most important aspect of any treatment.

  3. Dislocations of the shoulder joint: Is where you traumatically dislocate your shoulder joint. This is very painful and treatment needs to be directed towards manipulating the joint back into place, followed by treating the torn ligaments and muscles.

    Following this, a strengthening of your whole shoulder complex is required to reduce the risk of dislocating your shoulder again.

  4. Degeneration of the shoulder joint: Is where wear and tear over time causes arthritis in your shoulder joint , and degeneration of the tendons of your rotator cuff - both of which can cause pain in your shoulder.

    Treatment of this condition requires mobilisation, postural strengthening and shoulder pain exercise to maintain the movement of the joint. Although your degenerated tissue damage cannot be reversed, it can be managed very well from a pain management perspective.

Other Causes of Shoulder Pain

Other causes of shoulder pain come from traumatic injuries such as falls and injuries sustained from poor lifting and over use. Conditions such as bursitis and tendonitis can also lead to shoulder pain.

In summary, identifying the cause of your shoulder pain is the key to long-term resolution of shoulder injuries and problems.


While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.

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