Read below about pain in both shoulders, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your pain in both shoulders from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Pain in Both Shoulders Symptoms

Shoulder pain is one of the most common reasons for a person to visit a doctor. The shoulder joints are very versatile, flexible, and mobile, but these traits also leave them vulnerable to injury. Due to the configuration of your nervous system, your shoulders may also register pain that actually comes from other parts of the body. This means that pain in one or both shoulders should not be ignored, especially if it seems to be happening for no apparent reason.

Characteristics:

Who is most often affected by pain in both shoulders?

  • Those doing strenuous physical work such as digging, cutting wood, or moving heavy objects.
  • Athletes playing baseball, tennis, or other sports involving overhead throwing or hitting.
  • Weightlifters.
  • Anyone with disease of the heart, liver, or gallbladder.
  • Anyone who has suffered a heart attack.

Is pain in both shoulders serious?

  • Shoulder pain that comes on gradually and improves with rest is probably not serious.
  • Shoulder pain caused by an acute injury can usually heal quite well if treated right away.
  • Sudden, severe pain in both shoulders that seems to have no apparent cause can be very serious and should be treated as a medical emergency.

Pain in Both Shoulders Causes Overview

Many conditions can have pain in both shoulders as a symptom. The most common are those involving injury, illness, or "referred pain" from other diseases.

Most common cause types:

  • Inflammation of your muscles and/or tendons.
  • Tension in the muscles of your neck and shoulder, due to stress and/or poor posture. This is especially common if you spend long hours sitting at a desk or bending over a table or assembly line
  • Chronic overuse injury, which means you make the same motion with the shoulder over and over again. This includes activities such as swinging tennis rackets, hitting baseballs, or lifting weights. This can eventually result in a sprain, strain, tear, or other damage to the joints, tendons, muscles, and bursa.
  • Trauma due to a fall, automobile accident, or acute sports injury.

Less common cause types:

  • Autoimmune diseases, which often cause repeated episodes of inflammation. This will eventually damage cartilage and bone and cause chronic pain.
  • Neurologic diseases, which damage the nerves and cause neuropathic pain.
  • Severe infections of the bones or cartilage.

Rare & unusual cause types:

  • Aging, which can lead to degenerative diseases of the bone and cartilage of the neck and shoulders.
  • Referred pain, meaning it actually starts in another part of your body but is felt in the shoulders. For example, in rare cases, pain in both shoulders can be referred from tumors elsewhere in the body.
  • Pain in both shoulders that is accompanied by:

    • Tingling in the arm and hand can probably be traced to your neck.
    • Tightness and discomfort in the arms may be due to heart disease. This is considered a _ medical emergency _ even if there is no chest pain with it.
    • Pain in the right upper abdomen is probably due to liver or gallbladder disease.

9 Potential Pain in Both Shoulders Causes

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.

  1. 1.Non - Specific Shoulder Pain

    The shoulder is made up of many ligaments and several bones. Shoulder pain is often not identifiable because of how complicated a joint it is.

    1-2 weeks

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    shoulder pain
    Symptoms that always occur with non-specific shoulder pain:
    shoulder pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

    The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway filled with ligament and bones at the base of your hand. It contains nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the nerve to be compressed. Symptoms usually start gradually, and as they worsen, grasping objects can become difficult.

    Recovery time varies depending on treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous shoulder pain, hand weakness, wrist pain, weakness in one hand, pain in both hands
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis of the Shoulder)

    Adhesive Capsulitis or "Frozen shoulder" is when the shoulder is painful and loses motion because of inflammation.

    1.5 - 3 years, but 90% recover fully without treatment

    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
  4. 4.Shoulder Arthritis

    Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of the joints. Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the primary symptoms of arthritis. Any joint in the body may be affected by the disease, including the shoulder joint.

    Shoulder arthritis is a chronic problem once it develops.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night, difficulty moving the shoulder, swollen shoulder
    Symptoms that always occur with shoulder arthritis:
    spontaneous shoulder pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Pain in Both Shoulders Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having pain in both shoulders.

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  5. 5.Uterine Fibroids

    Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors in the uterus. They are common in women of childbearing age.

    Treatment ranges from medication to surgical removal of the fibroid.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), painful periods, irregular period
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Pinched Nerve in the Neck

    With age, disks separating the cervical vertebrae (which are the bones of your spine in your neck) lose height as well as lose water content, becoming stiffer. The vertebrae move closer together, and nerves that exit between these bones may be pinched, causing pain to travel down the nerve as it passes through the arm. The pain is usually sharp, and some people report a "pins and needles" sensation or even complete numbness.

    Majority of patients get better with time (weeks to months).

    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
  7. 7.Myofascial Pain Syndrome

    Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic musculoskeletal syndrome caused by trigger points within muscle. Pressure on these points causes pain in the area around the point as well as in other body parts, a phenomenon known as referred pain.

    Resolution of pain is dependent on type of treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    dizziness, spontaneous shoulder pain, pain in the back of the neck, tender muscle knot, general numbness
    Symptoms that always occur with myofascial pain syndrome:
    tender muscle knot
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that causes pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints. It can affect any joint but is common in the wrist and fingers. RA is an autoimmune disorder, meaning that it is caused by the immune system incorrectly attacking the joints when it shouldn't.

    RA is a chronic disease which requires lifelong control.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, joint pain, muscle aches, daytime sleepiness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Biceps Tendonitis

    The biceps is the muscle in the front of the upper arm. Its main action is to flex the arm. The beginning of the muscle is a tendon that passes in front of the shoulder. Problems with the tendon can arise due to impingement (where the tendon gets compressed by surrounding structures) or inflammation due to overuse of the shoulder. People with this condition experience a deep, throbbing ache in the front of the shoulder.

    Recover on its own within weeks to months.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    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 tendonitis:
    pain in the front of the shoulder
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Pain in Both Shoulders Treatments and Relief

Seek immediate treatment in the emergency room or call 911 if:

  • You have pain, pressure, tightness, or other discomfort in both shoulders and both arms, even if you do not have chest pain.
  • You have severe, constant, intractable pain in both shoulders, for no apparent reason.
  • You suffer an injury that results in pain in both shoulders, even with no outer sign of trauma.

Schedule an appointment for:

  • Severe pain and stiffness in both shoulders that is worse with rest and better with activity, especially if you also have flu-like symptoms.
  • Pain that does not improve within two weeks.

Remedies that you can try at home:

  • Applying heat or ice to the painful joints.
  • Taking over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to ease pain.
  • Working on improving posture when both sitting and standing.
  • Doing exercises given to you by your medical provider or physical therapist to improve strength and flexibility.
  • Changing your diet and exercise habits to lose any excess weight, which will allow freedom of movement and ease the stress on your joints.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Pain in Both Shoulders

  • Q.How would you explain the cause of your shoulder pain?
  • Q.About your [shoulder], do you notice any of the following?
  • Q.Can you fully move your shoulders around?
  • Q.Do you feel a painful, tight knot or band in your muscle anywhere on the body?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our pain in both shoulders symptom checker to find out more.

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Pain in Both Shoulders Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced pain in both shoulders have also experienced:

    • 5% Pain in the Back of the Neck
    • 3% Shoulder Pain
    • 3% Pain in the Upper Arm
  • People who have experienced pain in both shoulders had symptoms persist for:

    • 36% Over a Month
    • 23% Less Than a Week
    • 19% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced pain in both shoulders were most often matched with:

    • 29% Non - Specific Shoulder Pain
    • 26% Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
    • 22% Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis of the Shoulder)
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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