Shoulder Pain When Lifting Arm: What Causes It?

Pain in the shoulder can adversely affect your daily activities as shoulder joint is one of the most moved joints in the body. In fact, being one of the most flexible joints, this joint is more susceptible to injuries. Let us take a look at the causes of pain in the shoulder.

The shoulder joint is used in a wide range of activities as compared to any other joint in the body. It is made up of a ball and socket arrangement and the ball is much larger than the socket that holds it. This is the reason that it is more susceptible to injuries than any other joint in the body. There are various reasons of shoulder pain when lifting arm. Apart from an injury to shoulder joint, other diseases and disorders like heart diseases, pancreas problems, gallbladder diseases, ectopic pregnancy, a tumor in a lung, liver cancer, and cervical spine disorders can cause referred pain in shoulders.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Pain and discomfort in shoulder when lifting arm can be due to numerous reasons varying from arthritis, to calcification in the tendons or injury to the joint. Some of the common causes of shoulder pain are listed below.

Shoulder Dislocation
Extreme rotation or excessive stretching can lead to dislocation of the shoulder joint. Many times, some patients suffer from frequent dislocation of the shoulder. In this case, it is called shoulder instability. Also, there can be a partial dislocation of the shoulder joint which is called subluxation.

Rotator Cuff Injury
The rotator cuff is a set of muscles which controls and stabilizes the motion of the shoulders. Sudden powerful movement of the join can result in an acute tear of these muscles. The main symptom of rotator cuff injury is shoulder pain, especially when lifting the arm over the head.

Repetitive Movements and Injury to Shoulder Joint
Kayaking and pitch throwing athletes can suffer from the acute tear of the rotator cuff muscles. Also, there can be a chronic tear of these muscles. The chronic tear is due to the rubbing of tendons over each other. This tear of rotator muscles is usually experienced by people over 40 years. The chronic tear of the rotator muscles develops over a long period of time. Carpenters, painters may suffer from this problem.

Shoulder Separation
In shoulder dislocation, the ball and the socket joint gets dislocated. However, in shoulder separation, the collarbone and the shoulder blade is separated. A blow on the shoulder or outstretched hand can cause shoulder separation. A bump in the middle of the shoulder can be felt with hands. Also, while taking the X-ray image, the patient is told to hold weights in his hand to make the separation clearer.

Inflammation of Supraspinatus Tendon
Pain in the shoulder when lifting the arm to the sideways is due to the inflammation in the supraspinatus tendon. Severe pain is experienced when the arm is rotated at 60 degrees sideways. Overuse of the muscles near the shoulders, especially by athletes, is a common reason of supraspinatus inflammation.

Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Injury
AC joint present in the shoulder area, can get injured when one lands on the shoulder or elbow. Excessive outstretched hands can also cause serious injuries to this joint and can lead to severe pain when lifting arm. Injury to the acromioclavicular joint causes pain at the end of the collarbone. The AC joint becomes very painful due to this injury. Also, swelling is seen in these areas. Depending upon the severity of the injury, 1-6 grades of the injury are determined. This helps design the treatment.

These were some of the causes of pain in the shoulder. If the pain is sharp and unbearable, you must consult a physician immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment. The treatment involves rest, medications and shoulder exercises, depending upon the cause and nature of the injury and pain.

A person experiencing shoulder pain can apply ice pack for instant relief. He must take proper rest and let the shoulder area relax for a few hours during which he can apply an ointment for pain relief or can have a painkiller. However, one must remember that these remedies are only for temporary relief and a proper examination of the affected area is a must.