Medical Author: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Shoulder pain can be a result of injury or disease of the shoulder joint. Injury can affect any of the ligaments, bursae, or tendons surrounding the shoulder joint. Injury can also affect the ligaments, cartilage, menisci (plural for meniscus), and bones of the joint. The design of the shoulder joint is such that it sacrifices stability for mobility. As an extremely mobile joint that plays a central role in the action of a major extremity, the shoulder is at risk for injury. Common injuries of the shoulder can lead to inflammation of the bursae (bursitis) or tendons (tendonitis or tendinitis) and result in a torn rotator cuff with dysfunction, impingement, as well as instability and frozen shoulder. Labral tears can be from torn cartilage. Fracture of the bones of the shoulder (such as from biking falls) can cause intense shoulder pain.
Pain can also occur in the shoulder from diseases or conditions that involve the shoulder joint (including arthritis such as osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis with bone spurs), the soft tissues and bones surrounding the shoulder, or the nerves that supply sensation to the shoulder area. Occasionally, shoulder pain can be a result of a heart attack. It is unusual for cancer to cause shoulder pain.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
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Causes of Shoulder Pain
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Head and Neck Cancer
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Other Causes of Shoulder Pain
- Bone Tumor
- Brachial Plexus Injury
- Cartilage Tear (Usually Labrum Tear)
- Irritation Under Diaphragm
Examples of Medications for Shoulder Pain
- acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext, Little Fevers Children's Fever/Pain)
- aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid, Bayer, Ecotrin, and others)
- celecoxib, Celebrex
- ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Advil/Motrin, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever, and others)
- naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn)
- Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
- OTC Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers
- rofecoxib, Vioxx
- valdecoxib, Bextra
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