Pain in The Front of The Shoulder Symptom, Causes & Questions

Understand your pain in the front of the shoulder symptoms, including 9 causes & common questions.

Pain In The Front Of The Shoulder Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your pain in the front of the shoulder

Contents

  1. 9 Possible Causes
  2. Questions Your Doctor May Ask
  3. Statistics
  4. Related Articles

9 Possible Pain In The Front Of The Shoulder Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced pain in the front of the shoulder. 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...

Read more

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...

Read more

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

Biceps tendon rupture

The biceps muscle in the upper arm is anchored at the top by two separate tendons. One connects to the shoulder blade and one connects to the top of the shoulder joint. If one of these tendons is strained enough to completely tear it in two, this is called a rupture.

The injury is most common in people over age 40, especially after years of overuse of the shoulder. The person may have had episodes of biceps tendinitis in the past, which is a sign of fraying and damage to the tendon. In younger people it is primarily an acute sports injury, from weightlifting or from falling.

Symptoms include a pop or snap at the top of the shoulder, with sharp pain. There may soon be bruising halfway down the upper arm with obvious "balling up" of the partially disconnected muscle.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, x-rays, and sometimes MRI.

Treatment involves over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication; rest; ice; and physical therapy. Surgery may be done in some cases.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: pain in one shoulder, pain in the front of the shoulder, spontaneous shoulder pain, dull, achy shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night

Symptoms that always occur with biceps tendon rupture: pain in the front of the shoulder, pain in one shoulder

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Pain In The Front Of The Shoulder Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your pain in the front of the shoulder

Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder)

Frozen shoulder is also called adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder. The "shoulder capsule" is the strong web of connective tissue which holds the ball joint of the upper arm inside the socket of the shoulder blade. If this connective tissue is damaged, scar tissue – or adhesions – may form and cause the shoulder capsule to become tight, painful, and inflexible.

The condition can happen if an injury to the shoulder forces it to stay immobilized while healing. Additional risk factors may be diabetes, thyroid abnormalities, and heart disease.

Symptoms include gradual worsening of the ability to move the shoulder, due to increasing pain and stiffness in the outer shoulder and upper arm.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, with simple tests to measure how far the shoulder can move, as well as imaging such as x-ray or MRI.

Treatment involves physical therapy to help restore range of motion; over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to ease pain; and sometimes cortisone injections to the shoulder joint. Surgery may be needed in some cases.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: spontaneous shoulder pain, stiff shoulder, dull, achy shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night, difficulty moving the shoulder

Symptoms that always occur with frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder): stiff shoulder

Urgency: Primary care doctor

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

Brachial plexopathy (shoulder nerve issue)

The brachial plexus is a web of nerves between the neck and shoulder, connecting the spinal cord nerves to the arm. There is one web on each side of the neck. Any injury that forces the shoulder to stretch down, and the neck to stretch up and away, can damage these nerves and cause brachial plexopathy.

Sports injuries and car accidents are often involved. Inflammation, tumors, and radiation treatment can also damage the brachial plexus.

Milder symptoms include numbness and weakness in the arm, with a shocklike stinging or burning sensation. A more severe injury can cause paralysis and loss of feeling in the arm, with pain in some parts of the arm, hand, and shoulder.

These symptoms should be seen by a medical provider since permanent damage can result if the injuries are not treated.

Diagnosis is made through electromyography (EMG) testing, CT scan, MRI, and sometimes angiogram.

Treatment usually involves rest and physical therapy. Surgery may be necessary to remove scar tissue or repair the damaged nerves.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: pain in one arm, shoulder pain that shoots to the arm, arm weakness, numbness in one arm, shoulder pain

Symptoms that never occur with brachial plexopathy (shoulder nerve issue): pain in the front middle part of the neck

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Shoulder arthritis

Shoulder arthritis is inflammation of the shoulder joint, where the upper arm bone (humerus) meets the shoulder blade (scapula) and collarbone (clavicle). This inflammation can be caused by osteoarthritis or "wear-and-tear," injury to the shoulder joints, rotator cuff injuries, or r...

Read more

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 Pain In The Front Of The Shoulder

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?
  • Do you require a wheelchair to move around?
  • Hold your arms out to the side. Have someone push your arms down. Does it hurt your shoulder to resist?

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

Please take a quiz to find out what might be causing your pain in the front of the shoulder. These questions are also covered.

Take quiz

Pain In The Front Of The Shoulder Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced pain in the front of the shoulder have also experienced:

  • 26% Pain In One Shoulder
  • 6% Joint Stiffness
  • 5% Shoulder Pain

People who have experienced pain in the front of the shoulder were most often matched with:

  • 42% Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
  • 42% Biceps Tendonitis
  • 14% Repetitive Strain Injury Of The Shoulder ("Swimmer'S Shoulder")

People who have experienced pain in the front of the shoulder had symptoms persist for:

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

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant (a.k.a. the quiz).

Pain In The Front Of The Shoulder Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your pain in the front of the shoulder