Why Your Shoulder Pain Might Be More Serious Than You Think

Shoulder soreness might not seem like a big deal compared to chest pain or stomach ache, but any kind of discomfort deserves your attention. When something doesn't feel right in or around your shoulder, you might assume it's a matter of an awkward sleeping position. In some instances it may be just that, but shoulder pain can be a sign of something much more serious.

Of all the joints in our body, the shoulder has the widest range of motion. Most often, shoulder pain is the result of rotator cuff tendinitis or bursitis, meaning when rotator cuff tendons become trapped and inflamed under the bone (via Penn Medicine). Frozen shoulder happens when muscles, tendons, and ligaments inside the shoulder become stiff and hinder normal range of motion, causing pain in the joint. Causes of acute shoulder pain could be a broken shoulder bone or shoulder dislocation. Even poor posture and small day-to-day movements that possibly overuse or injure neighboring tendons can result in shoulder pain.

In such instances, an orthopedic specialist may be able to provide pain relief by treating the injury itself (via Best Life). But sometimes, shoulder pain requires immediate medical attention. Read on to learn how to identify more serious shoulder pain, and what it means.

When shoulder pain becomes a medical emergency

When you know your shoulder pain stems from a pulled muscle, you can ease recovery at home by taking some simple steps. Home remedies recommended by experts at the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute include taking Ibuprofen to reduce inflammation, applying an ice pack to the area for 10 minutes, gently stretching the muscles around the shoulder, and warming the shoulder by taking a mildly hot shower or applying a heating pad set to medium heat.

Sometimes, pain in your shoulder isn't coming from the area around the joint at all. With "referred shoulder pain," what's causing the pain is not actually associated with the shoulder (via Michigan Health). Referred shoulder pain can stem from a series of other health conditions such as gallstones, pneumonia, or a ruptured ovarian cyst. How can you determine if your shoulder pain is referred pain? Experts suggest taking note of pain levels. If pain persists while you remain still, and does not increase with shoulder movement, this is often an indicator of referred pain.

Be aware of sudden acute pain in the left shoulder, as this can be a sign of a heart attack (via Penn Medicine). Seek immediate medical attention if the pain is accompanied by sweating, difficulty breathing, or dizziness. Pressure or crushing shoulder pain that extends from the chest to the left side of the jaw, neck, or along the left arm is considered a medical emergency.