Serious Conditions that May Cause Severe Shoulder Pain

Shoulder Pain

Many people experience shoulder pain, but it is not always easy to identify the cause. The good news is that most shoulder injuries can be treated with rest and ice, and they are rarely severe. But if you have persistent shoulder pain that does not improve with simple treatment, talk to your doctor. Treatment is dependent on the cause and severity of the condition. In most cases, Stephen Fisher, MD, will treat you with physiotherapy and rehabilitative exercises. In some cases, you may need surgery.

Several severe conditions can cause shoulder pain, including:


Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa, a fluid-filled sac between the bones that allows movement.

The shoulder is a complex joint with several bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and cartilage. The shoulder girdle contains four bones, including the scapula (the shoulder blade), clavicle (collar bone), humerus (upper arm bone), and radius (forearm bone). The rotator cuff consists of four muscles that connect to the scapula, humerus, and radius.

The bursa sits between these bones to provide cushioning for smooth movement. It provides a protective barrier between tendons, muscles, and other structures in this body area. Bursitis can develop when these soft tissues become inflamed due to trauma or repeated use over time.

Biceps tendonitis

This condition involves inflammation of the biceps tendon (a structure on each side of your upper arm). It can occur due to overuse, which causes repetitive movement where it rubs against the bone; for example, lifting weights repeatedly in a gym. Symptoms include pain at the front of your elbow and forearm during activities such as lifting objects high.

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Rotator cuff tears

A tear in the rotator cuff is another type of shoulder injury involving the shoulder joint’s tendons and muscles. The most common site for this type of tear is at the top part of each cuff (the supraspinatus tendon). This type of tear often causes pain that starts at the bottom of your shoulder blade and moves up into your upper arm before spreading out into your chest or neck area. Some people may experience weakness in their arms after having a rotator cuff tear, so it is vital to seek treatment if you have any symptoms.

Osteoarthritis (cartilage damage)

Osteoarthritis is a leading cause of shoulder pain. It can affect older people, especially those with a previous injury or surgery. The condition causes cartilage degeneration in your shoulder joint, which causes pain and stiffness and restricts movement.

If you have osteoarthritis, taking regular breaks from your daily activities is vital to rest your shoulders and avoid overuse injuries. You should also wear padded clothing and avoid lifting heavy objects at home.

Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS)

Thoracic outlet syndrome occurs when the nerves in the arms and hands become trapped in the space around your collarbone. It usually results from prolonged upper arm or neck muscle use, such as typing for long periods.

When you have shoulder pain, it can come in many different forms. Some of them are more serious than others. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact a medical professional for help. Contact Stephen Fisher, M.D., and request an appointment with a specialist to learn more about shoulder pain.

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