Symptoms A-Z

Shoulder Pain That Gets Worse With Movement Symptoms & Causes

Understand shoulder pain that gets worse with movement symptoms, including 9 causes & common questions.

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Contents

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

9 Possible Shoulder Pain That Gets Worse With Movement Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced shoulder pain that gets worse with movement. 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 nagging, aching pain in the upper arm and shoulder that gets worse when raising the arms or reaching backward. You may also experience shoulder swelling and have difficulty lifting or rotating your arm.

Early treatments include resting the affected shoulder, applying ice, and taking over-the-counter pain medication. Stretching and cortisone injections may be recommended by your medical provider. In cases where tissue damage or bone spurs are present, surgery and follow-up exercises may be needed in order to have a full recovery.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: pain in one shoulder, dull, achy shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night, difficulty moving the shoulder, shoulder pain from overuse

Symptoms that always occur with rotator cuff tendonitis: pain in one shoulder

Urgency: Primary care doctor

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

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 force or older age.

Symptoms include a throbbing, aching pain in the shoulder that may radiate down the arm. Any throwing, lifting, or pulling movement may produce pain in the shoulder.

The diagnosis is made through physical examination and ultrasound, and possibly with CT scan and/or MRI.

Treatment begins with rest, ice, over-the-counter pain relievers, and physical therapy. It may also include injections of local anesthetic and/or corticosteroids into the biceps tendon sheath. Surgery may be needed in some cases.

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

Shoulder Pain That Gets Worse With Movement Symptom Checker

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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

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

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

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 rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms include shoulder pain that may get worse with movement or while sleeping, shoulder stiffness or limited mobility, as well as warmth, redness, or swelling of the shoulder area.

Treatment depends on the severity of your discomfort but may include rest, methods to alleviate pain, exercises to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder, steroid injections, and surgery.

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

Acromioclavicular (ac) shoulder joint injury

The shoulder is made up of three bones - the shoulder blade (scapula), collar bone (clavicle), and arm bone (humerus). The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is a joint that is in the front of the shoulder, where the collar bone and shoulder blade meet. This joint is stabilized by ligaments, which can tear if the two bones are separated from one another. This is most commonly caused by falling on the shoulder.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: constant shoulder pain, pain in one shoulder, shoulder pain from an injury, shoulder pain near the end of the collarbone, difficulty moving the shoulder

Symptoms that always occur with acromioclavicular (ac) shoulder joint injury: shoulder pain near the end of the collarbone, constant shoulder pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Shoulder Pain That Gets Worse With Movement

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

  • Can you fully move your shoulders around?
  • Where exactly is your shoulder pain?
  • Did you just suffer from a high impact injury (e.g., a fall, collision, accident or sports trauma)?
  • Did you feel your shoulder pop out of place?

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 why you're having shoulder pain that gets worse with movement

Shoulder Pain That Gets Worse With Movement Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced shoulder pain that gets worse with movement have also experienced:

  • 35% Pain In One Shoulder
  • 6% Shoulder Pain
  • 3% Pain In The Front Of The Shoulder

People who have experienced shoulder pain that gets worse with movement were most often matched with:

  • 37% Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
  • 37% Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis Of The Shoulder)
  • 25% Shoulder Strain

People who have experienced shoulder pain that gets worse with movement 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”).

Shoulder Pain That Gets Worse With Movement Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you're having shoulder pain that gets worse with movement