Shoulder pain is a common complaint and can arise from any of these structures or less commonly, be referred from the neck, heart or abdomen.
Pain can be due to trauma (physical injury), mechanical problems (such as subacromial impingement or instability), inflammation (such as arthritis, bursitis or capsulitis), degeneration (such as rotator cuff tears) or nerve irritation (involving nerves around the shoulder or in the neck).
Assessment of shoulder pain depends largely on a careful history of the onset, duration and location of the pain, and its relation to sleep, rest or activity. It may also be associated with other symptoms. Detailed physical examination and selective imaging such as x-rays, ultrasound, CT or MRI scans may be required to establish a precise diagnosis, although in some complex conditions arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) may be necessary to define the underlying cause.
In most cases there are features that can suggest the likely problem. The following covers some of the more common sources of shoulder pain:
Usually the cause can be readily identified and treated, and in some cases this may require surgery. Occasionally no structural or pathological problem can be identified and therefore pain management is important to relieve symptoms and maintain function.