Shoulder Pain

Overview of Shoulder Pain

The arm bone sits in a relatively shallow socket formed by the shoulder blade. While this allows for greater motion at the shoulder, it also predisposes the supporting muscles of the shoulder to injury. 

Signs & Symptoms

Rotator Cuff Injuries

The main muscle group of the shoulder is called the rotator cuff, and is made up of four different muscles. It is these muscles that are most commonly injured when a shoulder is painful. Repetitive motions or sometimes sudden movements of the shoulder in the socket can pinch or sometimes even partially tear the rotator cuff tendons, which then become inflamed and painful. Rotator cuff pain is usually worse with overhead activities, but can sometimes be painful at night when at rest.

Other Causes of Shoulder Pain

Other common causes of shoulder pain include biceps tendinitis, acromioclavicular injuries and sprains, shoulder instability, and cartilage tears. These injuries can be the result of overuse or traumatic causes. Biceps tendinitis usually causes a pain in the front part of the arm, worse with lifting. The acromioclavicular joint is the joint where the shoulder meets the collarbone. This joint is often injured by falling onto the shoulder or by lifting heavy weights. Shoulder instability and cartilage tears often feel like an aching deep within the shoulder which worsens with activity, especially throwing motions. 

Prevention & Treatment

Resting and avoiding activities that cause pain may be all that is necessary to decrease symptoms and allow the shoulder to heal. Icing and anti-inflammatory medications can also help with symptoms. In some cases, shoulder stabilization exercises may help to control pain. Depending on the cause of shoulder pain, symptoms may last from weeks to months. Physical therapy is sometimes needed to help to return the shoulder back to normal function. Occasionally, surgery is indicated.

If shoulder pain has not improved after a period of rest or is from a traumatic injury, it is usually a good idea to seek a medical opinion. 

How We Can Help

  • If you would like to be seen by our medical staff, please contact our Appointment Desk to schedule an appointment.
  • Also, our Advice Nurse service is available at no charge for all UC Davis students to discuss health concerns and the need for medical care.


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