Gradual onset shoulder pain

Chronic shoulder pain, which comes on gradually over time can be due to different causes. The patient is unlikely to be able to pin point the exact time the injury occurred. Chronic pain in the shoulder can also develop following an acute or sudden onset shoulder injury, which fails to heal properly.

An arthritic joint can have gradual onset of pain as well as tendonopathies from repetitive strain or overload, impingement or painful arc syndrome, rotator cuff injuries, and bone or cartilage damage. Injuries and conditions that cause this symptom are listed below:
  • 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.

  • Glenoid Labrum Tear

    Glenoid Labrum Tear

    The glenoid labrum is a fibrous ring of tissue which attaches to the rim of the glenoid shallow hole or socket of the shoulder blade where the ball of the humerus or arm bone sits. When this tissue tears, it creates general shoulder pain and weakness in the joint. This shoulder injury is often caused by repetitive movemment such as overhead throwing, so resting from these activities will help to ease the pain.

  • 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.

  • Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula

    A winged scapula is a symptom of another condition, rather than an injury itself. It is where the shoulder blade protrudes out on the back, rather than laying flat against the back of the chest wall, and this can be painful. It can be linked to poor posture, which is quite common with many people sitting at desks all day! Read more for treatments and exercises to help ease and prevent this shoulder pain.

  • Shoulder Tendonitis

    Shoulder Tendonitis

    Shoulder Tendonitis or Tenosynovitis is a degenerative condition of any of the tendons surrounding the shoulder joint. This is usually the rotator cuff tendons but it can also occur in the biceps and triceps tendons. The shoulder pain usually comes on gradually and is due to repetitive movements and overuse. It is common in those with poor posture and those who use the joint a lot, like athletes who throw and manual workers.

  • Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

    Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

    Rotator cuff tendonitis or tendinopathy is a degenerative condition affecting one or more of the rotator cuff tendons in the shoulder. The shoulder pain can be present when resting and be exacerbated by lifting and moving the arm above the shoulder. The affected tendon will probably feel tender and treatment can help relieve these immediate symptoms. We also explain exercises that can be performed, once pain has gone, to help prevent the injury recurring.

  • Subacromial Bursitis

    Subacromial Bursitis

    Subacromial bursitis has similar symptoms to Supraspinatus tendinitis with shoulder pain over a 60-degree arc when the arm is lifted sideways. The subacromial bursa is a sack of fluid over the tendon which helps facilitate movement. This can become trapped, especially in sports where the arm is regularly at or above shoulder level. Resting from these activities helps stop the pain, and once pain-free, you can start doing rehabilitation exercises.

  • 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.

  • Subscapularis Inflammation

    Subscapularis Inflammation

    The subscapularis is a very powerful muscle that rotates the arm inwards, and is part of the rotator cuff group of muscles. When the subscapularis is inflamed it will be painful to move the shoulder and the tendon in the inner upper arm will be tender to touch. The subscapularis is often injured by throwers and can be stubborn to treat. Read more on how to treat this injury below.

  • 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.

  • Long Head of Biceps Inflammation

    Long Head Biceps Inflammation

    The biceps muscle splits into two tendons at the shoulder. The long tendon runs over the top of the upper arm and attaches to the top of the shoulder blade. Pain will normally be at the front of the shoulder where the muscle is attached. Inflammation of this area is common among athletes, such as swimmers and weightlifters. Read more on the symptoms of biceps tendon inflammation and what you can do to treat it 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.

  • Proximal Humerus Growth Plate Fracture

    Proximal Humerus - Fracture

    A growth plate fracture or epiphysis plate fracture occurs at the end of a bone in children before the bone has fully turned from cartilage to hard bone. A proximal humerus fracture occurs in the upper arm, near the shoulder, and is normally caused by a hard impact like a fall. There will be severe pain and swelling in the upper arm and movement will be difficult.

  • Clavicle Muscle Attachments Inflammation

    Clavicle Attachments Inflammation

    The Clavicle, or collarbone, has a number of muscle attachments along its length. The tendons that attach the muscles to the front of the shoulder and collarbone can become painful and inflamed through overuse. This injury is particularly found in athletes who do a lot of throwing, such as cricketers. Read more on the symptoms and the treatments of this injury below.

  • Shoulder Subluxation

    Shoulder Subluxation

    Shoulder subluxation or shoulder instability occurs when the shoulder partially dislocates. By tis nature the shoulder joint allows a large range of movement which means it is likely to be less stable than other joints, such as the hip. There are seveal reasons why the shoulder joint may be unstable and dislocate which are described below. Medical help from a physiotherapist will help as they can give exercises to help strengthen and stabilise the area.

  • 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.