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What Is Causing My Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain is a common complaint because it can have many origins, and it affects a wide range of people. Often, problems with the shoulder can become progressively worse over time if left untreated. Whether your pain has developed gradually or has persisted after a specific shoulder injury, the first step in treatment is to determine “what is causing my shoulder pain.”

Anatomy of the Shoulder Joint

The shoulder is composed of three bones that form a loose ball-and-socket joint, which, along with the surrounding musculature, is commonly known as the shoulder girdle. The topmost end of the humerus (upper arm bone) forms the ball, which fits into the shallow socket of the scapula (shoulder blade), and the clavicle (collarbone) connects the chest bone to the top of the scapula. Four tendons of the surrounding muscles, known collectively as the rotator cuff, connect the shoulder blade to the humerus, and help move the arm and stabilize the joint. Finally, the two tendons of the biceps muscle also connect the arm to the shoulder blade, but in a different area.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

The shoulder is one of the most sophisticated and complicated joints of the body, offering high mobility because of its lack of bony stability. Wear and tear or injury to any of the bones, muscles, ligaments, or soft tissue in the shoulder can mechanically destabilize the joint and/or cause shoulder pain.

Sometimes, relatively mild traumatic events, such as a fall onto an outstretched arm, can result in a shoulder injury. Acute shoulder injuries may include the following joint damage:

In some cases, shoulder pain may not be attributable to a single traumatic event. There are a number of shoulder conditions that can develop with gradual wear and tear on the structures comprising the joint:

When is Treatment for Shoulder Pain Recommended?

You should seek medical treatment for shoulder pain if you experience swelling in the joint, limited range of motion of your arm or shoulder, or if the pain persists beyond a few days. Many chronic conditions and acute injuries to the shoulder should receive the proper medical treatment in order to prevent further injury and to preserve long-term strength and mobility in the shoulder. Depending on the extent of damage and severity of symptoms, shoulder arthroscopy may be used to help treat a variety of shoulder injuries.

Beverly Hills orthopedic surgeon Steven W. Meier, M.D. utilizes shoulder arthroscopy to minimize patients’ healing time, decrease blood loss, and reduce the level of pain that is traditionally associated with open surgical techniques. Arthroscopic surgery results in less trauma to the connective tissue and provides additional benefits, such as:

  • Reduced recovery time
  • Less scarring
  • Less pain after the procedure
  • Smaller risk of complications
  • Increased success rate

Ultimately, the arthroscopic approach is less invasive and does not require splitting muscle layers in the same way that the traditional approach does. Shoulder arthroscopy, followed by a comprehensive physical rehabilitation program, may be the most effective way to provide long-term relief for your shoulder pain if you have torn any essential structures of the shoulder.

Contact an Orthopedic Surgeon Today

Dr. Meier is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the surgical treatment of shoulder conditions and knee conditions, as well as arthroscopic surgical techniques. If you wish to schedule an appointment with a renowned orthopedic surgeon or have any further questions about shoulder pain or arthroscopic procedures, contact Dr. Meier’s Beverly Hills office at (310) 777-7845.


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The information available on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. This information is not intended to replace a medical consultation where a physician's judgment may advise you about specific disorders, conditions and or treatment options. We hope the information will be useful for you to become more educated about your health care decisions.