(734) 422-8400 | Great Lakes Orthopaedics

When is Shoulder Pain Serious?Shoulder discomfort might originate in the shoulder joint or in any of the numerous muscles, ligaments, or tendons found in the surrounding area. Shoulder discomfort that arises in the joint typically becomes more severe when the affected individual engages in activities or moves their arm or shoulder.

Shoulder pain can be caused by several diseases and ailments, including those that affect the structures in your chest or abdomen, such as heart disease or gallbladder disease. The term “referred pain” refers to shoulder pain originating in another form. In most cases, moving your affected shoulder won’t make your referred shoulder pain any worse.


Most shoulder issues only impact a localized region, and their treatment should only take a short time. On the other hand, the problem you’re having with your shoulder can be a symptom of a more widespread and chronic ailment, such as osteoarthritis or polymyalgia rheumatica.

People living with Rheumatoid arthritis frequently experience discomfort and swelling in their shoulders, as the condition is a prevalent symptom. Shoulder osteoarthritis is much less common than osteoarthritis in other joints, provided that your shoulders have not been harmed in the past.

There are several additional potential reasons for shoulder pain, including the following:

  • Inflammation is a natural response to an illness or injury and manifests itself in the form of your shoulder being hot, red, swollen, and painful.
  • Tearing of the muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder area
  • Muscle tension between the neck and shoulders is typically caused by poor upper back or neck posture. This poor posture is often linked to how someone stands or sits when working on a computer or at their place of employment.
  • Bursitis is an inflammation of the fluid-filled cushion that typically lets the muscles and tendons slide easily over the shoulder bones. Bursas are located on the shoulder.
  • Arthritis is a condition that can cause damage to the bones and cartilage in the body.
  • There’s also a chance that the pain you’re experiencing in your shoulder is being referred to from somewhere else in your body, like your neck. This is another possibility.

When to See a Doctor

When is Shoulder Pain Serious?Emergency Medical Assistance

Shoulder pain accompanied by shortness of breath or a feeling of squeezing in the chest may be a sign of an impending heart attack, requiring prompt medical attention from a trained professional.

Seek Immediate Medical Attention

If your shoulder discomfort results from an injury and is accompanied by the following symptoms, have someone drive you to the nearest urgent care facility or emergency room.

  • Intense pain
  • Sudden swelling
  • A joint that gives the appearance of being malformed
  • A disability that prevents you from using the joint or moving your arm away from your body

Schedule an Office Visit

Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician if any of the following symptoms accompany your shoulder pain:

  • Tenderness
  • Redness
  • Swelling


You could try the following methods to treat minor shoulder pain:

Pain remedies.
Pain medicines that are available without a prescription, such as an acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, and other brands), as well as naproxen sodium (Aleve), could be of assistance.

You should avoid using your shoulder in ways that either generate discomfort or worsen existing pain.

Apply an ice pack to the painful area of your shoulder for fifteen to twenty minutes, several times throughout the day.

Shoulder pain can sometimes be alleviated with nothing more than a little bit of time and some simple self-care techniques.

Call Now