Medically reviewed by
Dr. David Lukowski
McLeod Orthopaedics Seacoast
The shoulder holds a “good news, bad news” position in your body. The good news: It’s the most flexible joint in your body, allowing you to move your arm in many different directions. The bad news: The structure that produces this flexibility also makes your shoulder particularly susceptible to injury and pain.
“Because the shoulder plays a part in so many daily movements, it can become inflamed or develop osteoarthritis from wear and tear,” says McLeod Orthopedic Specialist David Lukowski, MD. “In addition to these problems, potential injuries include bursitis, instability and fractures.”
WHEN IT HURTS
When the bones, cartilage, tendons or bursa (small fluid-filled sacs that help cushion the joints) start creating problems, you can feel pain when moving the shoulder or at night, especially if you are a “side sleeper” on the injured side.
Other symptoms highlighting a shoulder injury include problems lifting an arm over your head or an overall weakness in the shoulder.
WHY IT HURTS
The rotator cuff, where four tendons come together surrounding the ball of the joint, can become inflamed (tendonitis) or a tearcan be caused by an injury or even simple wear and tear.
Frozen shoulder or impingement inflames tissue, leading to a tightness, pain and limited movement.
When sudden injury or overuse pops the shoulder out of its socket, the ligaments, muscles and tendons can stretch or tear, leading to instability and unsteadiness of the joint.
Like knees or hips, regular wear and tear of the shoulder can lead to osteoarthritis with stiffness, swelling and pain. Sports and work injuries can also trigger the beginning of osteoarthritis.
Impact from a sports contact or highway accident can fracture one of the shoulder bones, resulting in bruising, swelling and pain. Older patients suffering from balance issues may fall and break their shoulder.
Surgery reconnects a ligament, repair a fracture or replace the entire shoulder joint.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
If RICE (Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation) at home doesn’t reduce the swelling and pain overnight, see an Orthopedic Specialist. After some imaging tests, they will help you find the proper treatment.
Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Society of Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine, Arthritis Foundation, American Society for Surgery of the Hand, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons