Causes of Sudden Shoulder Pain Without Injury

Shoulder pain is common at all ages, and there are a handful of sources that are responsible for most diagnoses. One common type of shoulder pain that occurs in middle-aged and older people is sudden shoulder pain without injury.

You’d think without an injury, pain in the shoulder would be rare. However, this is not the case. As we age, constant shoulder pain becomes common. Most of the time, what causes shoulder pain is degenerative wear and tear.

Many of the issues that can cause shoulder pain have similar symptoms, which can make it difficult to pin down a specific diagnosis. Fortunately, early on, the non-surgical treatment for most of these diagnoses is similar. So knowing the exact diagnosis of constant shoulder pain is not always critical.

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What Is Shoulder Pain?

Often the symptoms of sudden shoulder pain without injury are pain on the side of the shoulder (particularly when lifting your arm overhead) and at night. The pain is often described as throbbing or sharp. It also often radiates to the elbow.

 A doctor examines a patient’s back to find how his shoulder pain is affecting other parts of his body.

Your shoulder is a complex system that must work like an orchestra. All the parts of your shoulder have specifically defined roles. If there is any alteration from this pattern, then left shoulder pain, right shoulder pain, dysfunction, and injury can occur.

Although this is a very complex system, most issues for sudden shoulder pain without injury come from six diagnoses.

Tendinosis/Bursitis (Impingement Symptoms)

Tendinosis and bursitis (impingement syndrome) happens with age or degeneration of the rotator cuff. This leads to a reduced range of motion in the shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Tears

The rotator cuff is a group of four tendons usually attached to the top of your arm bone. They contribute significantly to your arm motion. When not working correctly, pain, weakness, and overall poor shoulder function may arise.

However, rotator cuff tears can exist and your shoulder can function and feel perfectly healthy. They can be present when you have shoulder pain and not be the source of your pain.

Biceps Issues

The biceps is a muscle with two tendons attaching to its top and one to its bottom. One of the top tendons runs through a groove under a ligament in the front of your upper arm and turns into your shoulder joint.

Often with biceps issues, you will have front shoulder pain. If something is getting caught, as with a partial tear, there may be a periodic click or pop.

Frozen Shoulder

If you develop a frozen shoulder, you will notice progressive pain and stiffness. For many, specific stages of the disorder mark initiation to cure. Often, people will progress through this process with or without treatment. Frozen shoulder is a problem doctors rarely cure but rather one which we help you get through as you heal on your own.

Shoulder Arthritis

The shoulder can get arthritis like any other joint. There are two main types of arthritis: inflammatory and degenerative. Examples of inflammatory arthritis are Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, lupus, gout, etc.

Degenerative arthritis is somewhat different. The degree of involvement often differs from joint to joint. Because this is the more common form of arthritis occurring as we age, traditionally it has been thought of solely as a ‘wear and tear’ phenomenon.

The common symptoms of shoulder arthritis are deep and diffuse pain, limited motion, a grinding sensation, and overall poor shoulder function.

Calcific Tendinitis

Though not completely understood, calcifications can develop in our tendons, particularly in the rotator cuff tendons. Women between the ages of 40-60 are most commonly affected.

There tend to be three types of calcific tendinitis. In the first, calcifications are hard, like small pebbles, and relatively benign. It is rarely symptomatic and usually requires no treatment. In the second, an acute, severe painful inflammatory reaction occurs. The overlying skin may be warm. Due to pain, any motion will be difficult. The third type is a more chronic, lower level of near-constant shoulder pain. Often, patients will describe the pain as gnawing. Usually, people with this form can carry on with normal activities.

Shoulder Pain Treatment from Orthopedic Specialists

Most sudden shoulder pain without injury results from one of the six diagnoses above. It is always helpful to see a shoulder specialist when you have worrisome or protracted symptoms.

If you’re in those golden middle-age years and have sudden shoulder pain without injury, you can relax. Your symptoms and problem are likely treatable and curable. However, it is important to get checked before your pain turns into chronic shoulder pain.

To find out more about your sudden shoulder pain without injury and learn about your treatment options, visit us here or contact us at (571) 250-5660.

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