Aching shoulder

Aching or burning pain in the shoulder joint can be intermittent or constant. It can be referred from the neck and can either be at the front (anteriorly), the back (posteriorly) or from deep in the joint. An aching shoulder can be from a direct blow, a traumatic incident such as a fall, wear and tear (degeneration) or overuse.

The tendons, muscles, ligaments, cartilage, bones, bursa, nerves or a biomechanical issue can all cause an ache in the shoulder if injured. Injuries with this symptom are listed below:
  • Rotator Cuff Tear

    Rotator Cuff Tear

    A rotator cuff strain is a tear to any of the four rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder and is common in throwing and racket sports. They are so called because their job is to rotate the arm at the shoulder and provide a supportive cuff around the joint. This shoulder injury can range from mild to severe and may be caused by activity in sports involving throwing and/or degeneration due to overuse.

  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

    Shoulder Impingement

    Impingement syndrome is sometimes called swimmer’s shoulder or thrower’s shoulder, and is caused by the tendons of the rotator cuff becoming trapped as they pass through the shoulder joint. It may follow a partial tear of a rotator cuff tendon, or come on gradually through overuse. Resting the shoulder and treating it as soon as possible will help to prevent long term damage.

  • AC Joint Separation

    AC Joint Separation

    An AC joint separation, or AC joint sprain, is an injury to the ligament that holds the acromioclavicular joint together at the top of the shoulder. It is usually caused by a fall onto an outstretched arm and there can be different grades of damage. There will be severe pain and swelling on top of the shoulder, especially when trying to move the arm overhead. Read more about the different grades of this shoulder injury and what you can do to treat it, such as taping.

  • Frozen Shoulder

    Frozen Shoulder

    Adhesive capsulitis is the medical term for frozen shoulder, which is a condition causing pain and restricted movement in the shoulder joint. It is normally only seen in older people, with no specific cause. The shoulder will feel tight and stiff but with treatment, the pain will gradually ease to allow movement. Getting treatment as soon as possible will help prevent the injury from becoming too severe.

  • Supraspinatus Inflammation

    Supraspinatus Inflammation

    The supraspinatus muscle is one of the rotator cuff muscles which runs along the top of the shoulder blade and inserts via the tendon at the top of the arm or humerus bone. The supraspinatus tendon can become inflamed from overuse which makes it feel painful and weak, especially when moving the arm and shoulder sideways. Read more on the symptoms and treatment here.

  • Pec Major Tendon Inflammation

    Pec Major - inflammation

    The Pectoralis Major tendon is weakest where it inserts into the arm, or humerus bone. Common sports that can inflame the tendon include racket sports, rowing, swimming and weight training, and the pain when performing these activites will probably have increased over a period of time. Resting from these sports is essential to recovering form this shoulder injury. Read more on the symptoms and treatments below.

  • Referred Shoulder Pain

    Referred Shoulder Pain

    Pain in the shoulder can be referred to or caused by a problem in another area of the body such as the neck or spine. Pressure on nerves from various causes can result in pain being transmitted into the shoulder. General pain in the arm, shoulder, neck and chest areas can indicate a referred pain, and should be checked out by a doctor to find any underlying causes. Read more on referred shoulder pain here.

  • Suprascapular Neuropathy

    Suprascapular Neuropathy

    Suprascapular neuropathy usually occurs as a result of traction damage to the suprascapular nerve causing an aching or burning pain at the back and or side of the shoulder joint. This nerve can become damaged in sports that use overhead arm actions like cricket and tennis. Resting from these aggravating activities is the main way to help ease the shoulder pain, with strengthening exercises helping to treat the causes of the injury.

  • Supraspinatus Rupture

    Supraspinatus Rupture

    The supraspinatus muscle runs along the top of the shoulder blade and inserts at the top of the arm, or humerus bone, and is one of the four rotator cuff muscles. A supraspinatus rupture can occur from a fall and from activities like throwing, causing an immediate, sharp shoulder pain. The treatment needed to recover from this will depend on if the rupture is partial or full.

  • Fracture of the Neck of the Humerus

    Fracture Neck of the Humerus

    A fractured neck of the humerus is often caused by falling onto an outstretched hand or a direct impact to the shoulder. It is seen more often in young adults, adolescents and the elderly. A sling will need to be worn to allow the fracture to heal, before commencing rehabilitation exercises. Read more on the treatment of this shoulder injury.

  • Pec Major Tendon Strain (Rupture)

    Pec Major - Strain

    The pectoralis major muscle is a large powerful muscle at the front of the chest. It is used to rotate the arm inwards. Its weak point is where the tendon attaches to the arm bone, and a strain or rupture can happen here when it is put under stress, when weight training for example. Symptoms of this shoulder injury include pain and swelling at the front of the shoulder.

  • Shoulder Sprain

    Shoulder Sprain

    A shoulder sprain is damage to the shoulder ligaments or capsule which support the glenohumeral or shoulder joint. This is caused by a stretching of the fibers or partial to full tears of the ligaments or joint capsule, like if the arm is pulled backwards. The shoulder will feel painful and tender, often with swelling, which can be eased by rest and putting the arm in a sling.

  • Shoulder Pain

    Shoulder injuries can be either acute or chronic depending on when they are diagnosed and how long the pain or disability has been felt for. If you are not sure what your injury is why not check out our shoulder pain symptom checker! An acute shoulder injury occurs suddenly either through direct impact, over stretching a muscle, tendon or ligament, overusing a muscle or tendon or twisting of the shoulder joint. A chronic shoulder injury may come on gradually over time.

  • Chronic Shoulder Injuries

    Gradual onset shoulder pain or chronic shoulder pain may come on over a period of time. The athlete may not have known the exact time of injury which could have been niggling away for a while as they train through it. Due to the complexity of the shoulder joint, there are some injuries which may appear to have happened suddenly but also may develop gradually over time. A chronic shoulder injury may also be acutely painful.

  • Acute Shoulder Injuries

    Sudden onset or acute shoulder injuries are ones which happen suddenly, often though a fall onto an outstretched arm or through direct impact or over stretching or overloading. Often the athlete will feel a sudden sharp pain with discomfort and or loss of mobility. Sometimes there will be swelling and inflammation. It is important acute shoulder injuries are treated as soon as possible with the PRICE princples of immediate first aid. Always seek medical advice if pain is severe or you are in any doubt.