Symptoms A-Z

Dull, Achy Shoulder Pain Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand your dull, achy shoulder pain symptoms, including 7 causes and common questions.

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Contents

  1. 7 Possible Dull, Achy Shoulder Pain Causes
  2. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  3. Statistics

7 Possible Dull, Achy Shoulder Pain Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced dull, achy shoulder pain. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Rotator cuff tendonitis

The rotator cuff is an arrangement of muscles and tendons that holds the head of the upper arm bone within the shoulder socket. Rotator cuff tendinitis is the resulting condition when these muscles and tendons become inflamed or damaged.

The dominant symptom is a na...

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Pinched nerve in the neck

A pinched nerve in the neck is also called cervical radiculopathy. It means that a nerve in the neck, at a point where it branches off from the spinal cord, is being compressed by the surrounding bones, muscles, or other tissues.

It can be caused by a traumatic injury, such as from sports or an automobile accident, especially if the injury results in a herniated disk. It may also arise from the normal wear and tear of aging.

Symptoms include sharp, burning pain with numbness and tingling from the neck to the shoulder, as well as weakness and numbness into the arm and hand.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and simple neurological tests to check the reflexes. Imaging such as x-ray, CT scan, or MRI may be done, as well as electromyography to measure nerve impulses in the muscles.

A pinched nerve in the neck often improves with simply a few days or weeks of rest. Physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and steroid injections into the spine can all be very helpful.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: pain in one shoulder, spontaneous shoulder pain, pain that radiates down arm, pain in the back of the neck, severe shoulder pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Repetitive strain injury of the shoulder ("swimmer's shoulder")

Repetitive strain injury of the shoulder is caused by consistent repetitive use.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: shoulder pain from overuse, shoulder weakness, shoulder numbness

Symptoms that always occur with repetitive strain injury of the shoulder ("swimmer's shoulder"): shoulder pain from overuse

Symptoms that never occur with repetitive strain injury of the shoulder ("swimmer's shoulder"): severe shoulder pain, shoulder injury

Urgency: Self-treatment

Dull, Achy Shoulder Pain Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your dull, achy shoulder pain

Shoulder strain

Shoulder strain means that the muscles and/or the tendons in the shoulder have been overstretched to the point of damage and sometimes partial tearing. (A "sprain" means that ligaments have been damaged.)

Because of its wide range of motion, the shoulder is a relatively unstable joint that is vulnerable to injury. A sudden overloading, especially after long periods of overuse, can finally cause some degree of tearing to the muscle fibers and/or the tendons.

Shoulder strains are most often sports injuries, or are caused by strenuous physical labor.

Symptoms include sudden sharp pain followed by swelling, bruising, and ongoing tenderness.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and sometimes ultrasound.

Treatment involves a short period of rest, followed by gradually increasing exercise to regain strength and prevent stiffness and weakness of the muscles and tendons. Physical therapy will be tailored to the individual and some skills, such as for sports, may need to be relearned. Improving posture while sitting, and adjusting techniques for work and sports, can help prevent recurrence of the strain.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: pain in one shoulder, pain in the front of the shoulder, shoulder pain from overuse, shoulder pain from an injury, sports injury

Symptoms that always occur with shoulder strain: pain in one shoulder

Symptoms that never occur with shoulder strain: arm weakness, arm numbness

Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit

Non-specific shoulder pain

Non-specific shoulder pain, also called NSSP, means that the cause of pain in the shoulder is not immediately obvious.

There are many structures in and around the shoulder. 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. Anything from a broken arm to arthritis can cause shoulder pain.

Symptoms include pain that worsens with movement of the arm and shoulder, especially following overuse, or injury. Swelling, redness, joint deformity, inability to move the arm, or severe pain should be seen right away by a medical provider.

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

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and through x-ray or CT scan.

Treatment usually begins with rest and over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers. Further care will be determined by medical providers once the exact cause of the pain has been determined.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: shoulder pain

Symptoms that always occur with non-specific shoulder pain: shoulder pain

Urgency: Self-treatment

Biceps tendonitis

Biceps tendonitis is a painful inflammation of the tendon connecting the biceps muscle to the bones of the shoulder. Biceps tendonitis is usually caused by overuse, especially repetitive throwing-type motions of the arm. It can also be caused by pre-existing shoulder injuries, sudden f...

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Rotator cuff tear

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, keeping the head of the upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder. A rotator cuff injury (tear) can cause a dull ache in the shoulder, which often worsens when sleeping on the involved side.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: pain in one shoulder, dull, achy shoulder pain, difficulty moving the shoulder, pain in the outside of the shoulder

Symptoms that always occur with rotator cuff tear: shoulder pain from an injury, pain in one shoulder, shoulder pain from overuse

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Dull, Achy Shoulder Pain

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • How would you explain the cause of your shoulder pain?
  • Can you fully move your shoulders around?
  • Where exactly is your shoulder pain?
  • Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your dull, achy shoulder pain

Dull, Achy Shoulder Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced dull, achy shoulder pain have also experienced:

  • 22% Pain In One Shoulder
  • 5% Shoulder Pain
  • 4% Grinding Sensation In Shoulder

People who have experienced dull, achy shoulder pain were most often matched with:

  • 42% Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
  • 42% Pinched Nerve In The Neck
  • 14% Repetitive Strain Injury Of The Shoulder ("Swimmer'S Shoulder")

People who have experienced dull, achy shoulder pain had symptoms persist for:

  • 36% Over a month
  • 23% Less than a week
  • 19% Less than a day

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Dull, Achy Shoulder Pain Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your dull, achy shoulder pain

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.