Shoulder and Arm Pain Conditions

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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Pain in the arm or leg without apparent causes is called several names in the medical community—causalgia…

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Joint Arthritis

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Musculoskeletal Pain

Musculoskeletal pain is a common complaint that has multiple underlying causes.

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Rotator Cuff Injury

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Shoulder pain and arm pain conditions cover a wide range, from a simple strain to heart or blood vessel problems. Since the conditions vary, so do the symptoms.

Conditions that Cause Pain in the Shoulder and Arm

There are some common shoulder pain conditions that are in or near the shoulder and can cause pain to travel into the arm. The conditions are caused by:

  • disease (commonly arthritis),
  • injury,
  • over-exertion of the shoulder and/or arm joints and tissues,
  • repetitive motion,
  • inflammation of joint tissues,
  • infection.

Pain in the shoulder does not always originate from a shoulder condition. Referred shoulder pain is when pain is due to a medical condition that exists somewhere else in the body other than the shoulder.


The symptoms of various shoulder and arm conditions depend on the disease itself. Pain can occur along a spectrum from mild to severe. For example, a mild sprain may cause mild swelling and pain. A broken bone may be extremely painful, cause a visible deformation or even break through the skin. Pain due to arthritis might be intermittent or continuous.

Common symptoms of shoulder and arm medical conditions are:

  • pain in the shoulder and/or the arm;
  • shoulder pain and arm numbness;
  • swelling and/or bruising in the shoulder;
  • difficulty moving or turning the shoulder or arm;
  • inability to lift the arm up.

What Causes Shoulder and Arm Pain?

There are nerves in the shoulder that travel down the arm. They carry signals from the brain to the muscles used for arm movement. That is why people feel the pain in the shoulder and the arm.
Shoulder pain causes are also as varied as the conditions. For example, a shoulder injury could involve a broken bone, like a serious fracture of the humerus or joint ball, or a mild strained muscle. Bursitis occur after the repetitive motions or a fall, and it is the inflammation of the bursa that causes the pain. Arthritis is the wearing away of joint cartilage that cushions bones, and joint tissues are inflamed as a result.

When to See a Doctor

Some shoulder conditions will heal themselves with rest and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines. However, some symptoms indicate a serious condition that needs immediate treatment. For example, chest pain or pressure along with shortness of breath and shoulder and arm pain may indicate a heart attack is in progress.

The general rule is that a person experiencing pain in the shoulder and arm that comes on suddenly and is accompanied by pressure in the chest should get emergency treatment. If a person has pain in the shoulder and arm that flares during exertion but eases while resting, it is also important to see a doctor right away. It is possible the pain is caused by a reduction in blood flow to the heart muscle.

Following are some general guidelines for when to see a doctor for shoulder pain:

  • pain occurs right after an injury and does not ease;
  • pain is severe and makes it difficult or impossible to use the shoulder and/or arm;
  • shoulder and/or arm pain does not improve after attempting home remedies;
  • swelling, redness and/or pain increases rather than decreases over time;
  • severe bruising develops;
  • there is the sound of a bone cracking, visible protruding bone or bone deformity;
  • inability to turn the arm with the palm face up and down;
  • shoulder pain is accompanied by symptoms related to flare-ups of other medical conditions.

Take All Pain Seriously

Many times shoulder pain is temporary and self-care will be enough. However, any time pain is severe, continues, get worse or is accompanied by other symptoms, the wisest route is to see a doctor. A physician will perform a medical exam, order evaluation tests like x-rays or an MRI and develop a treatment plan. There is no reason to live with shoulder and arm pain when many treatment options are available.

Physician at SAPNA Dr. Majid Ghauri has superior training in identifying causes of shoulder and arm pain and performs pain treatments to comfort patients’ lives.

call to request an appointment to spain clinic

Call (703) 520-1031 today for a consultation with pain management specialist Dr. Majid Ghauri at Spine & Pain Clinic of North America (SAPNA) or use the form below to make an appointment.

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