20 May 2024
Discover the common causes of severe shoulder pain with this informative post. Find solutions and ways to relieve your discomfort. Read on for answers.

Imagine waking up in the morning, ready to start your day, only to be greeted by a throbbing, searing pain in your shoulder. The agony seems to intensify when you try to move your arm, leaving you feeling helpless and frustrated. This scenario is all too familiar for those who experience severe shoulder pain after sleeping. In this article, we will explore some of the most common causes of this discomfort, shedding light on potential solutions and ways to find relief. So, if you’ve ever found yourself wondering what could be causing your shoulder pain upon waking, read on to uncover some answers.

Common Causes of Severe Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can be debilitating, affecting your daily activities and overall quality of life. Understanding the common causes of severe shoulder pain is crucial in managing and treating the underlying condition. In this article, we will explore various factors that can contribute to shoulder pain, including muscle strain, rotator cuff tear, frozen shoulder, shoulder impingement, bursitis, tendinitis, shoulder dislocation, arthritis, and referred pain. By familiarizing yourself with these potential causes, you can take the necessary steps to find relief and improve your shoulder health.

Common Causes of Severe Shoulder Pain

Muscle Strain

One common cause of severe shoulder pain is muscle strain. This occurs when the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint are overstretched or torn. Muscle strain can result from various factors, such as overexertion, incorrect lifting techniques, repetitive movements, poor posture, sudden or jerky movements, and muscle fatigue.

Overexertion, often seen in athletes or individuals performing intense physical activities, can strain the muscles in the shoulder. Likewise, when you lift heavy objects without using proper form, the strain on the muscles can lead to shoulder pain. Repetitive movements, such as those seen in certain occupations or sports, can also contribute to muscle strain over time. Additionally, maintaining poor posture or abruptly moving your shoulder in an unexpected direction can put excessive strain on the muscles, causing pain. Lastly, muscle fatigue from overuse or inadequate rest can make the muscles more susceptible to strain and subsequent pain.

Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround and stabilize the shoulder joint. A tear in the rotator cuff can cause severe shoulder pain, limiting your range of motion and daily activities. There are two types of rotator cuff tears: degenerative tears and traumatic tears.

Degenerative tears encompass age-related changes in the tendons of the rotator cuff. Gradually, wear and tear can weaken these tendons, leading to tears and subsequent pain. Traumatic tears, on the other hand, result from acute injuries or accidents that cause sudden damage to the rotator cuff. These tears are often associated with a significant amount of pain and may require immediate medical attention.

Common Causes of Severe Shoulder Pain

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, clinically known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. It usually develops slowly over time, progressing through three stages: freezing, frozen, and thawing. The exact cause of frozen shoulder is still unclear, but certain factors can increase the risk of developing this condition.

Primary frozen shoulder occurs without any specific cause, often affecting individuals between the ages of 40 and 60. Secondary frozen shoulder, however, can be triggered by a previous shoulder injury, surgery, or conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, or cardiovascular diseases. Regardless of the type, frozen shoulder can cause significant pain and limited mobility in the affected shoulder.

Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement occurs when the rotator cuff tendons become pinched or compressed between the bones of the shoulder joint. This can cause inflammation, pain, and limited movement. There are two types of shoulder impingement: subacromial impingement and internal impingement.

Subacromial impingement refers to the pinching of the tendons and bursa located beneath the acromion, a bony prominence on the shoulder blade. This type of impingement is commonly caused by repetitive overhead activities, structural abnormalities, or tendon degeneration. Internal impingement, on the other hand, occurs when the tendons and bursa within the shoulder joint become pinched during certain movements, typically seen in athletes involved in throwing or overhead sports.

Common Causes of Severe Shoulder Pain


Bursitis refers to inflammation of the bursae, which are small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the joint and reduce friction between tissues. In the shoulder, bursitis commonly affects the subacromial bursa, prepatellar bursa, and deep bursa. Each type of bursitis can cause significant shoulder pain.

Subacromial bursitis occurs when the subacromial bursa, located between the rotator cuff tendons and the acromion, becomes inflamed. This can result from repetitive shoulder movements or impingement. Prepatellar bursitis affects the bursa located in front of the kneecap, but the pain can radiate to the shoulder due to compensation or referred pain. Deep bursitis, although less common in the shoulder, can cause severe pain if the deep bursa becomes inflamed.


Tendinitis refers to the inflammation of a tendon, which connects muscles to bones. In the shoulder, various tendons can become inflamed and lead to significant pain. Common types of shoulder tendinitis include supraspinatus tendinitis, biceps tendinitis, and subscapularis tendinitis.

Supraspinatus tendinitis occurs when the supraspinatus tendon, which runs along the top of the shoulder blade, becomes inflamed. This can result from repetitive shoulder motions or impingement. Biceps tendinitis affects the tendon that connects the biceps muscle to the shoulder joint. Finally, subscapularis tendinitis involves inflammation of the subscapularis tendon, which connects the shoulder blade to the humerus bone.

Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder dislocation refers to the displacement of the upper arm bone (humerus) from the shoulder socket. This can cause severe pain and limited movement. There are three types of shoulder dislocations: anterior, posterior, and inferior dislocations.

Anterior dislocation is the most common type and occurs when the upper arm bone is pushed forward and away from the shoulder socket. Posterior dislocation happens when the humerus bone is forced backward, and inferior dislocation occurs when the humerus bone is forced downward. These dislocations can result from trauma, falls, accidents, or certain sports activities.


Arthritis refers to inflammation and degeneration of the joints, resulting in pain, stiffness, and limited mobility. There are several types of arthritis that can affect the shoulder joint, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis, and septic arthritis.

Osteoarthritis typically occurs with aging and wear and tear of the joint, leading to cartilage breakdown and joint space narrowing. Rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, causes inflammation and damage to the joints, including the shoulder. Post-traumatic arthritis can develop after a severe shoulder injury or fracture, while septic arthritis is caused by an infection in the joint.

Referred Pain

Pain felt in the shoulder can sometimes be caused by issues in other parts of the body, a phenomenon known as referred pain. Conditions such as a heart attack, gallbladder disease, liver disease, or cervical spine disease can all cause referred pain to the shoulder. It is essential to consider these possibilities and consult with a healthcare professional to identify the root cause of your shoulder pain accurately.

In conclusion, severe shoulder pain can be caused by various factors, ranging from muscle strain and rotator cuff tears to frozen shoulder, impingement, bursitis, tendinitis, dislocation, arthritis, and referred pain. By understanding these common causes, you can take proactive steps toward diagnosis, treatment, and ultimately, alleviating your shoulder pain. Remember to seek professional medical advice to determine the underlying cause of your pain and develop an appropriate plan for recovery and pain management.

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