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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Painful shoulders

Pokohiwi mamae

Shoulder pain is common and can affect you at any age.

Your shoulders are the most mobile joints in your body. They're ball and socket joints, but the sockets aren't deep enough to hold the balls securely – they need the surrounding muscles and tendons to keep them stable.

The muscles and tendons that hold your shoulder in place are called the rotator cuff. Each rotator cuff is made up of four muscles and their tendons.

As well, a tendon of your biceps muscle attaches nearby and there is a bursa (a fluid-filled bag) that helps your rotator cuff glide over the nearby bones.

Common causes of shoulder pain include arthritis, rotator cuff problems, bursitis, frozen shoulder and neck injury.

Self-care for shoulder pain

Most shoulder pain will get better with time but there are some things you can do to help.

Getting help for shoulder pain

If your pain develops suddenly and is worse at night, see your general practice team.

If your pain is not getting better after two to three weeks, see your general practice team or physiotherapist.

Your general practice team may want to do some tests such as an X-ray or ultrasound scan.

Your physiotherapist will be able to suggest some exercises and give you some treatment to help your shoulder pain.

Written by a Canterbury physiotherapist. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2022.


Page reference: 298123

Review key: HISHI-13267