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6 Common Causes of Chronic Shoulder Pain

6 Common Causes of Chronic Shoulder Pain

The shoulder joint is complicated, containing three bones and several tendons, ligaments, and muscles. With all of the parts and movements associated with the shoulder, shoulder pain is very common and not usually caused by an underlying health issue.

At Summit Primary Care, board-certified family physician Lawrence Scott Wilner, DO, and the experienced team diagnoses and treats shoulder pain. Here are the six most common causes of chronic shoulder pain:

Tendon injuries

Often the result of gradual wear and tear, tendon injuries can also occur from a sudden injury or fall. The shoulder has several tendons attaching the muscles to the bones, and when they tear or swell, you experience pain and stiffness.

Torn rotator cuff

A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that keeps your arm in the shoulder socket and attaches the humerus (the long bone that runs from your shoulder to your elbow) to the shoulder blade. Over time, the tendons and muscles of the rotator cuff can tear or tear due to injury, and may cause limited mobility. 

Shoulder instability

If the tendons surrounding your upper arm bone become stretched and damaged, your shoulder can slip out of place. A partial slip is called a subluxation, and a complete slip is called a dislocated shoulder. People have shoulder instability if they experience repeated slips of the shoulder and tend to experience chronic shoulder pain.


The shoulder has a fluid-filled sac called a bursa that sits between the shoulder muscles and the top of the joint. The sac provides cushioning for the joint and helps allow the muscles to move over the joint smoothly. Repetitive movements can cause the bursa to swell, leading to both pain and stiffness.

Frozen shoulder

Because people with chronic shoulder pain tend to avoid using their shoulder, you may find the shoulder joint becomes stiff. Over time, you may not be able to move the joint at all, which is called frozen shoulder. Frozen shoulder can be caused by injury or other shoulder conditions, but it can also be caused by diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disease.


For some, arthritis is the cause of chronic shoulder pain. Two types of arthritis can affect the shoulder — osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear of the joint, typically occurring after middle age. Rheumatoid arthritis starts at younger ages, affects other joints in your body, and causes joint inflammation and damage.

Most shoulder pain resolves with rest and time, but if your shoulder pain doesn’t improve with rest and pain medication, call our Denver, Colorado Springs, or Pueblo, Colorado, office or book an appointment online today for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

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