Shoulder Pain
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Signs & Syndromes

Common shoulder problems include the following:

  • Rotator Cuff
    Rotator cuff tear - A rotator cuff tear involves one or more rotator cuff tendons becoming inflamed from overuse, aging, a fall on an outstretched hand, or a collision.
  • Impingement syndrome - The pain associated with the syndrome is a result of an inflamed bursa (lubricating sac) over the rotator cuff, and/or inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons, and/or calcium deposits in tendons due to wear and tear.
  • Frozen shoulder - A severely restrictive condition frequently caused by injury that, in turn, leads to lack of use due to pain
  • Dislocation - The shoulder joint is the most frequently dislocated major joint of the body - often caused by a significant force that separates the shoulder joint's ball (the top rounded portion of the upper arm bone, or humerus) away from the joint's socket (glenoid).
  • Burstis - It often occurs when tendonitis and impingement syndrome cause inflammation of the bursa sacs that protect the shoulder.
  • Tendonitis - Shoulder pain is caused when the rotator cuff and/or biceps tendon become inflamed, usually as a result of being pinched by surrounding structures. The injury may vary from mild inflammation to involvement of most of the rotator cuff. When the rotator cuff tendon becomes inflamed and thickened, it may become trapped under the acromion.
Common Causes

Rotator cuff injuries are very common. Cause of the injury may include falling, lifting, overuse, and repetitive arm activities. These activiies my include throuwing a baseball, painting walls, placing items on shelves above your head. The injury is also common among people whose jobs or hobbies includes healvy demands on their shoulders, such as athlets, archers and people in the costruction trades. Poor posture, especially as related to your shoulders hunched forward such as sleeping with your arm over your head ad carrying heavy bags on your shoulder, also can contribute to rotator cuff injury The risk of a rotator cuff injury icreases over the year.

The most common cause of rotator cuff pain though, is due to the degeneration of the tendon.  Pain is at its worst when lifting the arm over the head and the pain can be most severe at night.


Rotator cuff tendonitis, bursitis and impingement are common causes of shoulder pain, particularly in middle-aged patients. Injuries range from acute strains, swelling and bruising, to chronic inflammation and fibrotic thickening and weakening of the rotator cuff tendon. Swelling of the bursa and thickening of the rotator cuff can push the tendon up into the bony arch of the scapular acromion, creating a vicious cycle of tendon injury that can eventually lead to complete tears of the rotator cuff.

Shoulder pain is described in Traditional Chinese Medicine as stagnation or obstruction of the flow of qi and blood in the tendons and muscles of the Large Intestine, Small Intestine, and Internal Membrane acupuncture meridians. Treatment is aimed at stopping pain, decreasing inflammation, and restoring range-of-motion and strength by moving qi and blood, clearing heat and obstruction, and draining dampness from the shoulder region.

Another common treatment used for rotator cuff injuries in US is multiple injections of steroids. This procedure may lessen the discomfort of the problem in the short term but the end result is that it actually weakens the tendon tissue.