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Learn about your swollen shoulder, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your swollen shoulder 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.

Swollen Shoulder Checker

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Your Swollen Shoulder May Also be Known as:
Arm feels puffy
Arm feels swollen
Arm is puffy
Arm is swollen
Arm puffiness
Arm swelling
Clavicle feels puffy
Clavicle feels swollen
Clavicle is puffy
Clavicle is swollen

Swollen Shoulder Symptoms

Swelling is the result of fluid buildup that gets trapped in your body's tissues. Fluid buildup can occur when an area of the body becomes inflamed, injured or damaged. The small blood vessels in the body begin to leak fluid. Moreover, the body can bring in white blood cells to repair the damage, and more fluid follows. Depending on the cause, the swelling can be generalized and occur throughout the body, or localized and only affect a specific part of the body (edema).

A swollen shoulder is often associated with trauma or injury. Take note of the associated symptoms below if you think you may be experiencing a swollen shoulder:

  • Shoulder pain
  • Bruising in the shoulder area
  • Warmth or redness of the affected area
  • Limited range of motion
  • Decreased strength
  • Feeling of instability in the shoulder
  • A visibly deformed or out-of-place shoulder

Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect shoulder swelling as it is often a sign of an underlying injury or chronic condition.

Swollen Shoulder Causes Overview

The shoulder is a very mobile joint and vulnerable to injury. The shoulder joint consists of the shoulder blade (scapula), the collarbone (clavicle) and the bone of the upper arm (humerus). The head of the humerus sits in a socket of the scapula (glenoid). There is a ring of tissue that surrounds the glenoid socket (labrum) that keeps all of these pieces in place.

See this image for a visual representation.

Any condition that causes inflammation, injury or damage to this system can result in shoulder swelling.

Trauma/Injury Related Swollen Shoulder Causes

Any activities that cause direct trauma to the shoulder area can result in these swollen shoulder symptoms. Traumatic injuries include:

  • Falling on an outstretched arm
  • A direct blow to the shoulder that results from a motor vehicle accident or even falling from a bicycle
  • A sudden, forceful pull. For example, when trying to lift a heavy object from the ground.
  • Displacement or dislocation of the system of bones, sockets and tissue of the shoulder, causing the shoulder to feel as if it has popped out of place.

Overuse

Activities that cause repetitive shoulder motions such as tennis or weightlifting can cause overuse injury to the shoulder joint. Repetitive overhead motions you may perform at work can also cause such overuse injuries and lead to symptoms of swelling and pain.

Aging

  • Normal wear and tear. Wear and tear over a long period of time can weaken the shoulder joint. As a result, patients over the age of 40 are more susceptible to such swollen shoulder symptoms. With advanced age, the greater the exposure to situations that weaken the shoulder system and breakdown of the tissues and ligaments surrounding the joint.
  • Rheumatologic Swollen Shoulder Causes. This category includes inflammatory conditions involving the body's tissues and joints that often affect patients of older age. Conditions such as arthritis cause inflammation that easily brings fluid into the tissues leading to swelling, redness and tenderness in the joints.

Top 2 Swollen Shoulder Causes

  1. 1.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.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will likely coordinate care with an muscle and bone specialist (orthopedic surgeon). Treatment for arthritis may involve pain killers to ease the pain, physical therapy, corticosteroid injections into the shoulder, and surgery in rare, more severe, cases.

    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

    Swollen Shoulder Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having swollen shoulder.

    Take a quiz
  2. 2.Psoriatic Arthritis

    Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. Some people who have psoriasis also get a form of arthritis (inflammation and swelling of joints) called psoriatic arthritis.

    You should visit your primary care physician to manage this disease as there are many treatment options. A treatment plan will often consist of therapy (physical, occupational, massage), patient education, exercise and rest, devices to protect joints, medicine and/or surgery.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    joint pain, lower back pain, shoulder pain, upper back pain, joint stiffness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Swollen Shoulder Treatments and Relief

If you experience shoulder swelling or any of these associated symptoms, make an appointment with your physician to get appropriate swollen shoulder treatment. Depending on the diagnosis, your doctor may suggest:

  • Repositioning. If your swelling is due to a dislocation injury, your physician may first attempt to reposition the upper arm back into the shoulder socket. This is usually done with IV sedation in an emergency department or urgent care setting for acute dislocations.
  • Immobilization (Sling). Your doctor may use a sling to keep your shoulder from moving.
  • Physical Therapy or Rehabilitation. Your physician may prescribe stretching exercises or a physical therapy/rehabilitation program to help you restore range of motion, strength and stability to your shoulder, especially after injury.
  • Rheumatologic Medications. There are many types of medications that combat rheumatologic conditions that may be causing your swollen shoulder symptoms.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Swollen Shoulder

  • Q.How long has your shoulder been swollen?
  • Q.How swollen is your shoulder?
  • Q.How would you explain the cause of your shoulder pain?
  • Q.How long has your shoulder pain been going on?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our swollen shoulder symptom checker.

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Swollen Shoulder Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced swollen shoulder have also experienced:

    • 19% Pain in One Shoulder
    • 6% Severe Shoulder Pain
    • 5% Shoulder Pain
  • People who have experienced swollen shoulder had symptoms persist for:

    • 29% Over a Month
    • 26% Less Than a Week
    • 18% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced swollen shoulder were most often matched with:

    • 34% Psoriatic Arthritis
    • 6% Shoulder Arthritis

Swollen Shoulder Checker

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having swollen shoulder.

Take a quiz