Common Shoulder Injuries & Conditions

The majority of shoulder pain problems involve the muscles, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons. In particular, athletes and skilled workers are especially susceptible to issues involving shoulder blade pain or shoulder joint pain. Because of repetitive, intensive routines, shoulder pain can develop over time.

Rotator Cuff Tears

Rotator Cuff Tear

Keeping the ball of your upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder, the rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. People who repeatedly perform overhead motions in their jobs or sports are more likely to sustain rotator cuff injuries. Age is another factor for risk of rotator cuff injury.

Diagnosis & Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Tear

The pain associated with a rotator cuff tear is often described as a dull ache that originates deep in the shoulder. It may be accompanied by weakness in the arm and can cause difficulty reaching behind your back or overhead. Often the pain will disturb your sleep, especially when lying on the injured shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Tear Treatment Options

Depending on the severity of the rotator cuff tear, there are nonsurgical and surgical treatment options available.

Shoulder impingement/Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Both young athletes and middle-aged people find it common to experience rotator cuff pain. Especially vulnerable are those who use their arms overhead for sports such as baseball, tennis and swimming. Also at risk are people who do repetitive lifting or overhead activities using the arm, such as painting, paper hanging or construction.

Sometimes a minor injury may be the cause of the pain. However, pain can occur with no apparent cause.

Diagnosis & Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement/Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Tenderness in the front of the shoulder or the midpoint of the arm is often caused by rotator cuff pain. When lifting your arms you also might experience shoulder pain and stiffness. Symptoms of night pain and difficulty sleeping are also problems associated with rotator cuff pain.

Onset symptoms may be mild and patients usually do not seek treatment at an early stage. These symptoms may include: pain radiating to the side of the arm from the front of the shoulder, sudden pain when reaching, minor pain both at rest and with activity, and for athletes, shoulder pain when throwing a ball. As the problem becomes worse symptoms can increase to loss of strength and difficulty sleeping through the night.

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis Treatment Options

Your doctor will consider your general health, age and activity level in your treatment plan. The ultimate goal is to decrease pain and return you to normal activity. Both nonsurgical and surgical options are available.

Dislocated Shoulder/Shoulder Instability

The body's most mobile joint is the shoulder, which makes it susceptible to dislocation. An injury in which your upper arm bone pops out of the cup-shaped socket that's part of your shoulder blade defines a dislocated shoulder. Common complications associated with a dislocated shoulder are labral tears or Bankart lesions.

Diagnosis & Symptoms of a Dislocated Shoulder

A shoulder dislocation can cause weakness, numbness or tingling near the injury, for example down your arm or in your neck. The intensity of pain might increase if the muscles in your shoulder spasm from the disruption. Symptoms of a dislocated shoulder may include the obvious visibly out-of-place shoulder, intense pain and inability to move the joint.

Dislocated Shoulder Treatment Options

Treatment options for a dislocated shoulder may involve closed reduction, immobilization, medication, rehabilitation or surgery.


SLAP is an acronym for Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior. The top (superior) part of the labrum is injured in a SLAP injury. The biceps tendon attaches to the labrum in this top area. Both in front (anterior) and back (posterior) of this attachment point is where a SLAP tear occurs. It is possible for the biceps tendon to be involved in the injury as well. SLAP tears are common in athletes who overhead throw, such as baseball and tennis players.

Diagnosis & Symptoms for a SLAP Tear

Commonly, the symptoms of a SLAP tear are similar to many other shoulder problems. They include a decreased range of motion, a sensation of grinding, popping or locking, and pain with lifting or movement, especially lifting overhead or holding the shoulder in specific positions.

SLAP Tear Treatment Options

The initial treatment for a SLAP injury is nonsurgical in many cases. Treatment options may include medication or physical therapy. If your pain does not improve with these methods your doctor may recommend shoulder arthroscopy. Read more about nonsurgical and surgical treatments for SLAP tears.

Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

Characterized by stiffness and pain in your shoulder joint, frozen shoulder is also known as adhesive capsulitis. Over a period of one or two years, symptoms typically begin slowly, worsen over time and then resolve.

Diagnosis & Symptoms of Frozen Shoulder

There are three stages to frozen shoulder that can last many months, and typically its development is slow.

  1. Freezing/inflammatory stage: Shoulder's range of motion starts to become limited during this stage, and pain occurs with any movement of the shoulder.
  2. Adhesive/Frozen stage: Although pain may begin to decrease during this stage, the shoulder becomes stiffer, and range of motion diminishes greatly.
  3. Thawing stage: Shoulder’s range of motion begins to improve during this stage.

Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis) Treatment Options

The goal of most frozen shoulder treatments is to regain as much range of motion in the shoulder as possible as well as to control pain. There are both nonsurgical and surgical options for treating this condition.

Shoulder Arthritis (Shoulder Osteoarthritis)

Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the smooth outer covering (articular cartilage) of bone wears down over time. It is also known as “wear-and-tear” arthritis. The cartilage becomes frayed and rough as it wears away, and the protective space between the bones decreases. The bones of the joint rub against each other during movement and this causes pain.

Healthy Shoulder Arthritic Shoulder

Diagnosis & Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis (Shoulder Osteoarthritis)

Aggravated by activity, the most common symptom of arthritis of the shoulder is pain. There is usually a limited range of motion and painful grinding or clicking can be felt or heard upon shoulder movement. Night pain is often present.

Shoulder Arthritis (Shoulder Osteoarthritis) Treatment Options

Initial treatment of arthritis of the shoulder is typically nonsurgical, however there are both nonsurgical and surgical options for treatment.