20 July 2024
Discover the common causes of shoulder pain, including injuries, rotator cuff tears, frozen shoulder, tendinitis, bursitis, and more. Find relief and prevent future discomfort.

Have you ever woken up with a painful shoulder and wondered what could have caused it? Shoulder pain can be a real bother, affecting your everyday activities and making simple tasks feel like a challenge. In this article, we will explore some common causes of shoulder pain, including a frequent culprit: hurting your shoulder in sleep. We’ll dive into why this happens and what you can do to find relief and prevent future episodes of discomfort. So, let’s get to the bottom of that achy shoulder and find ways to keep it in good shape!

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Anatomy of the Shoulder

The shoulder is a complex joint that provides a wide range of motion and allows us to perform various daily activities. To understand the causes of shoulder pain, it is important to first understand the anatomy of the shoulder.

Bones and Joints

The shoulder consists of three main bones: the humerus (upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone). These bones come together to form two main joints – the glenohumeral joint and the acromioclavicular joint. The glenohumeral joint, which is a ball-and-socket joint, allows for the majority of the shoulder’s movement.


The shoulder is supported by a group of muscles known as the rotator cuff. These muscles include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. The rotator cuff muscles work together to stabilize the shoulder joint and facilitate smooth movements.


Tendons are tough, fibrous tissues that connect muscles to bones. In the shoulder, the rotator cuff tendons attach the rotator cuff muscles to the humerus. These tendons play a crucial role in maintaining shoulder stability and transmitting force from the muscles to the bones.


Ligaments are strong bands of connective tissue that connect bones to other bones, providing stability to the joint. In the shoulder, the main ligaments include the glenohumeral ligaments, coracoclavicular ligament, and acromioclavicular ligament. These ligaments work together to prevent excessive movement and stabilize the shoulder joint.


Bursae are small, fluid-filled sacs that reduce friction between tissues such as tendons, muscles, and bones. In the shoulder, there are several bursae, including the subacromial bursa and subdeltoid bursa. These bursae help facilitate smooth movements by reducing friction in the shoulder joint.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the anatomy of the shoulder, let’s delve into the common causes of shoulder pain.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can arise from various causes, ranging from injury or trauma to underlying medical conditions. Understanding these causes can help in identifying and seeking appropriate treatment. Here are some of the common causes of shoulder pain:

Injury or Trauma

One of the most common causes of shoulder pain is injury or trauma. This can occur due to falls, accidents, sports-related activities, or even repetitive motions. Injuries such as fractures, dislocations, sprains, and strains can lead to intense pain and limited mobility in the shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. A tear in the rotator cuff can occur due to acute injury, repetitive overuse, or age-related degeneration. A rotator cuff tear often results in shoulder pain, weakness, and limited range of motion.

Frozen Shoulder

Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is a condition characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. The condition typically progresses through three stages – freezing, frozen, and thawing. Frozen shoulder can be caused by factors such as injury, inflammation, or underlying medical conditions.


Tendinitis refers to the inflammation of a tendon, often resulting from repetitive motions or overuse. In the shoulder, tendinitis commonly affects the rotator cuff tendons and can cause pain, swelling, and difficulty in performing overhead movements.


Bursitis is the inflammation of a bursa, which is a fluid-filled sac that cushions and reduces friction between tissues. In the shoulder, bursitis can occur in the subacromial or subdeltoid bursae and can result from repetitive motions, injury, or underlying medical conditions. Common symptoms include pain, swelling, and limited range of motion.

Impingement Syndrome

Impingement syndrome occurs when the tendons and bursae in the shoulder become pinched or compressed between the bones of the joint. This can cause pain, inflammation, and limited shoulder movement. Impingement syndrome can be a result of repetitive motions, structural abnormalities, or muscle imbalances.


Arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammation and degeneration of the joints. In the shoulder, different types of arthritis can occur, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and post-traumatic arthritis. These conditions can lead to joint pain, stiffness, and decreased mobility.

Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder dislocation happens when the ball of the upper arm bone pops out of the shoulder socket. This can occur due to a traumatic event, such as a fall or sports injury. Shoulder dislocation causes severe pain, swelling, and instability in the joint.

Shoulder Instability

Shoulder instability refers to a condition where the shoulder joint is prone to dislocation or subluxation (partial dislocation). It can be caused by repeated dislocations, ligament laxity, or certain anatomical factors. Shoulder instability can lead to recurring episodes of pain and instability.

Referred Pain

Sometimes, shoulder pain can be a result of referred pain, meaning that the pain is felt in the shoulder but originates from another part of the body. For example, conditions affecting the neck, spine, or even the heart can cause referred shoulder pain.

By understanding the different causes of shoulder pain, you can better communicate your symptoms to healthcare professionals and seek appropriate treatment. It’s essential to remember that each individual may experience shoulder pain differently, and diagnosis and treatment options may vary depending on the underlying cause. If you are experiencing persistent or severe shoulder pain, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

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