Sudden onset shoulder pain

Shoulder pain, which comes on suddenly or acute shoulder pain is common especially with falling or landing. The pain can be referred from the neck in acute injuries. Sudden shoulder pain can be sharp or dull and be an injury to the rotator cuff or to the joint such as a labrum detachment which maybe with or without swelling. This type of pain can be due to muscle, ligament or bone damage such as a fracture. Infections can also come on suddenly and can cause acute shoulder pain as well as inflammation to the brachial plexus called a brachial neuritis.

A heart attack can also create a sudden pain in the shoulder and can feel like a crushing pain and can also create shortness or breath and sweating and pain to the neck, jaw and arm if this is the case call emergency help immediately. Injuries and conditions that cause 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.

  • Dislocated Shoulder

    Dislocated Shoulder

    A dislocated shoulder is a traumatic and painful injury often caused by contact sports or from a fall. This shoulder injury can do further damage to the area surrounding the joint so it is important to seek medical advice immediately. A dislocated shoulder can be recurring, so we also identify some rehabilitation exercises that can help you recover from the injury and try to prevent it happening again.

  • 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.

  • 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 Fracture

    Clavicle Fracture

    A clavicle fracture, or broken collarbone as it is also known, is a fracture of the clavicle bone. The clavicle runs along the front of the shoulder to the breastbone or sternum in the middle of the chest, and can be fractured by a fall. The fracture normally happens towards the middle of the bone but can also happen near the shoulder. The pain will be intense and medical help is needed immediately.

  • Long Head of Biceps Rupture

    Long Head Biceps Rupture

    The biceps muscle splits into two tendons at the shoulder. The long tendon runs over the top of the humerus bone and can suffer a partial rupture causing pain at the front of the shoulder. This shoulder injury is more common in older athletes and can cause pain down the arm and swelling in the joint.

  • 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.

  • Scapula Fracture

    Scapula Fracture

    A scapula fracture is a break in the shoulder blade bone at the back of the shoulder. This is a relatively uncommon injury, making up only 1% of all fractures, and can be caused by direct blows and car accidents. Symptoms include a severe shoulder pain at the back of the joint and difficulty moving the arms. Read more about the causes, symptoms and treatment of this fracture.

  • 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.

  • Posterior Shoulder Dislocation

    Posterior Shoulder Dislocation

    A posterior shoulder dislocation occurs when the head of the humerus moves backward out of the socket. This is a relatively rare injury as most shoulder dislocations are anterior. It may be caused by contact sports, car accidents or a fall. This shoulder injury results in a complete loss of function and severe pain, for which medical help is urgently needed.

  • Deltoid Muscle Strain

    Deltoid Muscle Strain

    The Deltoid muscle is the large muscle on the top & outside of the shoulder. Although not a common injury, an injured Deltoid can result in pain at the front, side or back of the shoulder, particularly when lifting the arm from the side to the front. Deltoid muscle strains are categorised into grades, depending on the severity of the injury, which can be read about below.

  • Deltoid Contusion

    Deltoid Contusion

    A deltoid contusion is a bruise in the deltoid muscle which is situated on the side of the shoulder. This occurs after a direct impact to the muscle, usually from a hard, blunt object such as a hard ball or an opponents elbow! Read more on the symptoms and treatment of this shoulder injury.

  • 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.