Sharp Pain In Shoulder
Reviewed By: SPE Medical Review Board
Sharp pain in shoulder problems are common and can be very unpleasant.
They may develop suddenly with an injury or gradually over time, but whatever the cause, they can quickly affect daily life and even disturb your sleep.
In most cases sharp pain in the shoulder is due to structures in an around the shoulder either catching against each other e.g. tendonitis, or getting squashed e.g. impingement.
But sometimes it may be that the problem isnt in the shoulder itself but that its actually referred pain from the neck.
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This list of possible reasons for the pain underneath your shoulder blade is not exhaustive, but hopefully it gives you a helpful starting point on the journey to relief. Any back or shoulder pain that lingers a few weeks or interferes with daily activities should be evaluated by a doctor. If your pain is severe or accompanied by other red flag symptomssuch as headache, tingling, weakness, or nauseaseek immediate medical attention.
Home Remedies For Right Shoulder Blade Pain
Activities that cause or exacerbate shoulder blade pain should be avoided. Try OTC pain relievers such as Ibuprofen , Tylenol or naproxen . Apply an ice pack for 15-20 minutes to decrease the pain and inflammation. For muscle spasm, heat may provide quality relief and decrease pain. Try alternating between heat and cold, as there is no right or wrong answer here do what feels best and alleviates discomfort.
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When Should I Seek Medical Help
You should contact your doctor if you experience fever, inability to move your shoulder, lasting bruising, heat and tenderness around the joint, or pain that persists beyond a few weeks of home treatment.
If your shoulder pain is sudden and not related to an injury, call 911 immediately. It may be a sign of a heart attack. Other signs of a heart attack include:
- trouble breathing
Shoulder Tendinitis Or Bursitis
Tendons are strong fibers that attach muscles to your bone. Bursa are fluid-filled sacs that prevent friction at joints.
Inflammation of the tendons and the bursa are common causes of shoulder pain, but pain can occur anywhere that inflammation occurs.
The tendons and bursa around your rotator cuff are especially prone to inflammation that causes pain and stiffness around your shoulder.
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Treatment For Sharp Shoulder Pain
The best treatment for sharp pain in shoulder problems will depend on the underlying cause e.g. a mechanical problem such as impingement or tendonitis will require different treatment to nerve irritation. Some will need a period of rest from aggravating activities, other will benefit from rehab exercises and so on.
You can find loads of great treatment, recovery and prevention advice on each of the sharp pain in shoulder causes we have looked at here by using the links above. If you need more help working out what is wrong, visit the shoulder pain diagnosis section.
Page Last Updated: 09/05/2022
How Can Physical Therapy Help My Shoulder Pain
The goal of physical therapy for shoulder pain is mobility improvement, which often goes hand-in-hand with pain relief. The therapist will start with an assessment to measure strength, functional mobility, and your current range of motion.
When rotating your shoulder in a circular motion, you might feel a sharp pain. With rotator cuff tendonitis, the ball of the shoulder joint will move slightly upwards. This can pinch the tendons or bursa underneath, usually producing a pinching sensation. Exercises can help strengthen surrounding muscles while you learn how to move the arm for relief.
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Questions Your Healthcare Provider May Ask
Youll likely be asked many of these questions about your shoulder blade pain:
- Which shoulder blade hurts? Right, left, or both?
- How long has it hurt?
- Did it come on gradually or suddenly?
- Have you recently changed your exercise routine?
- Do you take part in activities that often cause scapula pain?
- Do you sleep on the same side the pain is on?
- How would you describe your pain?
- What makes the pain worse?
- What makes the pain better?
- Do you smoke, or did you in the past?
- What other symptoms have you had?
Important symptoms to mention include:
- Shortness of breath
Other tests may be ordered based on your symptoms or other findings.
I Have Pain In My Right Shoulder Blade When I Take A Deep Breath
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How Does The Shoulder Work
Your shoulders each have two joints, making them the most flexible parts of your body.
The main shoulder joint the glenohumeral is a ball-and-socket joint. Its called this because the top of the upper arm bone the humerus is shaped like a ball. This ball fits into the shoulder blade bone, which acts as the socket, giving your shoulder a wide range of movement.
But, the shoulder socket is very small, compared to other ball-and-socket joints, such as the hip. Its held together and controlled by a covering of muscles, which are secured to the bones by strong cords called tendons.
These muscles and tendons form a capsule around the joint and support its movements, but can make it more likely to dislocate than other joints.
Inside the capsule is the synovium, which produces fluid that lubricates the joint and keeps the cartilage healthy. The cartilage helps protect your bones from any impact and sits between the bones of your shoulder joints to stop them rubbing together.
Above the main shoulder joint theres a smaller joint where the top of the shoulder blade the acromion meets the collar bone.
This is known as the acromioclavicular joint. It helps the larger joint below to move through its full range, particularly when youre raising your arm, lifting or throwing.
How Do I Get Arm And Shoulder Pain Relief
Shoulder pain and arm pain is best initially assessed by a general practitioner . They will make an assessment and make sure there are no warning signs for something serious.
If they suspect something more serious is causing your pain, they may do some scans or blood tests and send you to see a pain specialist or an orthopaedic surgeon.
If the shoulder pain and arm pain is mild or improving, GPs may:
Reassure that there is no serious cause for concern and advise that the pain should improve with physical activity and simple pain medications.
If the shoulder pain and arm pain persists or returns GPs may:
Use stronger pain medications
Suggest management by an expert pain physiotherapist
Refer to a pain specialist physician to provide more comprehensive back pain management using options like joint and nerve blocks, sympathetic blocks and radiofrequency ablation , pulsed radiofrequency or nerve stimulation and neuromodulation using spinal cord stimulation
Refer to an orthopaedic surgeon for an opinion.
Contact us to book an appointment with a specialist.
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Tests To Diagnose The Cause Of Shoulder Pain
Treatment will depend on the cause of your shoulder pain, so its important to identify whats causing your discomfort. In most cases, you should visit your healthcare provider to discuss the cause of your shoulder pain. They might use the following tests to help make a diagnosis:
- X-ray: If your healthcare provider suspects a fracture or arthritis, they may use an X-ray.
- Magnetic resonance imaging : MRI scans can be used to show damage to ligaments and other soft tissue.
- Computed tomography : CT scans provide a detailed look at the joint that can be helpful in diagnosing most shoulder pain issues.
- Electromyography : Electrical studies, including EMGs, can detect nerve damage.
- Arthroscopy: If your healthcare provider cant make a diagnosis based on the other tests, they may opt for exploratory surgery, known as an arthroscopy.
What Is Shoulder Pain That Radiates Down The Arm
Published on: 1st July 2019
Have you ever experienced an ache or pinching sensation in your arm that wont go away?
If so, youre not alone. Persistent arm pain is one of the more common complaints we see here at Chris Bailey Orthopaedics.
Given that we specialise in knees and shoulders, you may find that slightly strange. But then pain is a slippery customer. Just because you feel discomfort in one part of your body doesnt mean the problem originated there. It may be referred, as doctors put it, from somewhere else.
And so it is with arm pain. Quite often, we find that ongoing discomfort in the arm is actually caused by the shoulder. Which can cause confusion during the examination. Why are you focusing on my shoulder? people ask. Youre six inches too high! We can understand the frustration.
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What That Pain In Your Shoulder Could Say About Your Gut
When you have pain in your abdomen, its hard to pinpoint its origin. It could be appendicitis, indigestion, a kidney stone, or an intense stomach ache. Because our bodies are so intricate, detailing your symptoms helps our team zero in on the problem area and get to work on a treatment thats going to alleviate your pain.
One of the biggest culprits of abdominal pain is gallbladder disease. Gallstones are the #1 gastrointestinal disorder that causes hospitalization.
Our dedicated team of doctors here at Desert West Surgery are here to answer a few questions about the gallbladder, gallstones, and why a problem with your gallbladder can affect your shoulders.
Rotator Cuff Tendinitis / Tendinosis
This is essentially a breakdown of the rotator cuff tendons that are deep inside your shoulder. It can be caused by repetitive movements, maintaining the shoulder in a position where they are pinched , poor shoulder mechanics as well as other general health factors that affect the resiliency of your soft tissues.Learn about Rotator Cuff problems here.
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Causes Of Shoulder Pain When Night
Although many shoulder disorders can cause pain, the most common cause of shoulder pain at night comes from rotator cuff tendinitis. It usually is caused by irritation of the shoulder tendons leading to inflammation and pain. This condition can be caused by many things, including:
- Repetitive work injuries
Rotator cuff tendinitis is known to affect millions of people in the U.S. each year and is a major cause of shoulder pain when sleeping.
Some of the other causes of shoulder pain at night are:
- Frozen shoulder
- Shoulder dislocation
Why exactly does the pain increase at night even though it might be fine during the day?
What We Might Do Next
One way to treat unexplained pains like these is with a local anaesthetic injection in the shoulder. If the arm pain disappears temporarily , its a good indication that the shoulder is indeed the culprit. We can then focus our treatment there and get to the root of your pain. On the other hand if the injection works for a little while and seems to be improving the arm pain, we could look to continue progress with some targeted physiotherapy.
Sometimes the best course of action is to monitor and manage the discomfort over the medium term, either with physical therapy or perhaps with a steroid injection every six to 12 months. But of course its also possible that the problem is beyond the reach of either physio or injections. When that happens, we can look at surgery options to stop the pain for good.
Have you been ignoring a long-running pain in your arm or shoulder? Dont feel as though you should put up with it forever! Book in to see your GP, or make an appointment with us direct. Well be very happy to help you find out whats happening, and how we can help you get back to normal.
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Causes Of Right Shoulder Blade Pain
A variety of illness and diseases result in pain in right shoulder blade and self-diagnosing is dangerous.
1. Gallbladder Attack
The gallbladder is located under the liver in the upper right area of the abdomen. It functions to help digest dietary fat. Females, those over forty year of age and obese persons may be prone to gallstones and subsequent painful gallbladder attacks. The pain is intense it generally occurs after eating a fatty or fried meal. The pain from these attacks can radiate to the right shoulder.
Gallstones are most commonly treated by surgical removal of the gallbladder. This procedure is performed by a surgeon who makes several small incisions in the abdomen. Then using a camera and special surgical tools is able to remove the gallbladder. The recovery using this method requires less time than the classic large incision.
2. Heart Attack
A heart attack is caused by blockage of blood vessels supplying the heart. Pain can radiate to a variety of locations including the right shoulder. The pain can also be felt in the neck, jaw or left shoulder. Tearing or ripping type pain can radiate to the shoulder or back and can signify that the large blood vessel coming off the heart is tearing. Both of these problems are life -threatening and require immediate emergency care. Call 911 immediately.
3. Liver Diseases
Infections of the liver are treated with antibiotics and if required, surgical drainage. More serious liver diseases may require a liver transplant.
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.
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
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Chronic Shoulder Pain Treatment Or Arm Pain Treatment
Through years of experience, weve figured out that good and long-lasting chronic shoulder pain and arm pain relief doesnt work unless all bases are covered.
The best pain management combines pain-reducing treatments with selected therapies like physical and psychological rehabilitation treatment.
TYPES OF TREATMENT
Medications to reduce the pain
These may be simple over the counter medications or can be medications prescribed by your pain specialist. Medications might include muscle relaxants or nerve pain medications . Sometimes analgesic compound creams are used to ease pain.
Injection therapies can be used to target, diagnose and manage chronic pain caused by muscle, joint and nerve pain.
It includes interventional therapies like nerve blocks radiofrequency ablation , pulsed radiofrequency and epidural and nerve root steroid injections. Sympathetic nerve blocks can also be performed.
Some of these therapies can be focused on various structures that might be causing or making the pain worse like the glenohumoral joint, the acromio-clavicular joint, the subacromial bursae, muscle trigger points, the brachial plexus, the spinal nerve roots and other nerves around the shoulder. Platelet-rich plasma can also be used in some locations around this area.
Nerve stimulation or neuromodulation techniques
Most types of chronic pain treatment should be managed alongside some form of specialist rehabilitation. This is when the best results occur.
Corticosteroids And Pain Medications
If at-home treatments arent effective, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medications. However, these wont heal the underlying causes of bursitis.
Another option is corticosteroid injections around the bursa. However, you can only have a limited number of these injections because they increase the likelihood that you could rupture your tendon.
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Possible Causes Of Pain Under Your Shoulder Blade
Having pain under or near your shoulder bladethe triangular bone that forms the back of your shouldermay limit arm movements and interfere with daily activities. This pain can range from being sharp or burning, such as between the spine and shoulder blade, to tender or achy across the shoulder or upper back. Some possible causes of this pain are discussed below.