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Non-Specific Shoulder Pain

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Last updated October 29, 2021

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What is non-specific shoulder pain?

Non-specific shoulder pain, also called NSSP, means that the cause of pain in the shoulder is not obvious. The shoulder is made up of many ligaments and several bones. The cause of shoulder pain is often difficult to figure out because of how complicated the joint is.

The pain may be from a condition or injury in the joint itself, or in any of the bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding it.

Rarity: Common


Symptoms include pain that worsens with movement of the arm and shoulder, especially following overuse, or injury.

If you have swelling, redness, joint deformity, inability to move the arm, or severe pain, you should see a doctor immediately.

Shoulder pain with shortness of breath and/or pain or tightness in the chest can be signs of a heart attack. Go to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.


When you see a doctor, they will do a physical examination, asking you to move your arm in different ways, and they may order an X-ray or CT scan.

Treatment usually begins with rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relievers like Motrin (ibuprofen). Your doctor may recommend physical therapy or other treatments.

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