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Causes of Chronic Shoulder Pain

October 27, 2021

person holding his shoulder

The shoulder is the most flexible joint in the body, but also one of the most complex. Even seemingly minor injuries can compromise shoulder movement and result in pain or stiffness around the joint. When shoulder pain persists for six months or longer it is classified as chronic shoulder pain.

At Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin, we offer a number of different treatments for shoulder pain, including minimally invasive shoulder surgery. The type of treatment that is right for each of our Austin, TX, patients depends largely on the type of injury, or the cause of chronic shoulder pain. Here we go over some of the most common issues that cause long-term shoulder pain.

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Rotator cuff tendinitis is one of the most frequent causes of chronic shoulder pain. This condition is characterized by swelling in the tendons, which are the tissues that connect the muscles and bones of the shoulder. In addition to pain, rotator cuff tendinitis can result in tenderness and joint stiffness. Rotator cuff tendinitis is often the result of repetitive overhead motions, like throwing a ball, swinging a tennis racket, or washing windows. The condition can also be caused by an injury.

Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff tear can also lead to long-lasting shoulder pain. This condition occurs when a tear develops in the tendons surrounding the shoulder joint. Individuals may suffer from a partial tear (the tendon is frayed or damaged), or a complete tear (the tear goes all the way through the tendon or pulls the tendon off the bone). Rotator cuff tears often result in pain, shoulder weakness, and limited shoulder movements. Rotator cuff tears can be caused by a sudden shoulder injury, or they can develop over time, as the tendons gradually wear down (often because of repetitive motions).

Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement occurs when inflammation in the tendons causes the connective tissues to rub on the shoulder blade. This condition can cause chronic shoulder pain that becomes more pronounced when a person lifts or reaches their arms out. This condition is frequently referred to as "swimmer's shoulder" because it is usually caused by repetitive shoulder movements, such as those made by swimmers.

Adhesive Capsulitis

Adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder, refers to stiffness in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments surrounding the shoulder. This causes the shoulder itself to become stiff, which limits a person's range of motions and makes movement painful. Symptoms of adhesive capsulitis usually start gradually and become more pronounced over time. The exact cause of frozen shoulder is unknown, but it often develops after our Austin patients have kept the shoulder immobile for an extended period of time. Certain medical conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, and thyroid disease also increase the risk of frozen shoulder.

Get in Touch

No one should have to suffer through chronic shoulder pain. If you have been dealing with pain, stiffness, or weakness in the shoulder joint, the doctors at Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin can create a personalized treatment plan to relieve pain and restore joint mobility. To learn more about treatments for chronic shoulder pain, contact our practice online, or call (512) 476-2830.