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Symptoms of the Painful Shoulder

The shoulder is easily injured because the ball of the upper arm is larger than the shoulder socket that holds it. Imagine the body keeping a golfball on top of the golf tee.  To remain stable, the shoulder must be anchored by its muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

When problems occur the shoulder pain may be localized or may be felt in areas around the shoulder or down the arm, not quite to the elbow.  Most people will first notice this when moving the arm in certain positions, for instance reaching to get something in the back seat of the car.  As the problem worsens, reaching up in the cupboards causes a wince.  Many times this problem is made worse by fitful sleep due to shoulder pain.  Finally, the shoulder is painful to move above one’s chest and mobility becomes restricted.

Although the shoulder is easily injured during sporting activities and physical activity, the primary source of shoulder problems may be the natural age-related degeneration of the surrounding soft tissues such as those found in the rotator cuff. The incidence of rotator cuff problems rises dramatically as a function of age and is generally seen among individuals who are more than 35 years old. Often, the dominant and nondominant arm will be affected to a similar degree. Overuse of the shoulder can lead to more rapid age-related deterioration of the shoulder muscles, tendons, and ligaments.


note - Most shoulder problems involve the soft tissues, muscles, ligaments and tendons, rather than bones. And most of these problems fall into three major categories:

* tendonitis/bursitis
* injury/instability
* arthritis

Other much more rare causes of shoulder pain are tumors, infection and nerve-related problems.