Pain in Left or Right Shoulder-Causes and Treatments

With 360 degrees of movement, the human shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the body. Because of this, it’s all too easy for something to go wrong, and when it does, you can be faced with crippling pain. But shoulder pain is a symptom and not a condition itself, indicating an underlying issue that needs to be identified.

Basic Anatomy

Consisting of a ball and socket joint there are three main bones within your shoulder connected by muscles, ligaments and tendons – the humerus, clavicle and the scapula. These three bones form the underlying structure of your shoulder while four main joints support movement between the bones.

Common Shoulder Issues

If you’re experiencing pain in your left or right shoulder, check out our list of common complaints and issues. It’s important not to diagnose any potential problems yourself, and you should always consult a medical professional.

  • Pain/Stiffness for longer than two weeks – Indication of a frozen shoulder or arthritis
  • Pain worsens when using arm – Indication of Tendonitis or Bursitis
  • Tingling/Numb feeling – Indication of hypermobility in the shoulder
  • Sudden shooting pain/unable to move – Dislocated Shoulder or broken bone
  • Pain in the joint – Dislocation or torn ligament

Common Causes of Pain in Left or Right Shoulder

Pain in Left Shoulder

It is important to take note of the various reasons why you may be having some pain on your left or right shoulder such as the following:

  1. Poor Posture

Do you think that you are not standing up as straight as you should? This may be brought about by having poor posture. You have to take a look at your posture when you are standing up. Do you stand up with your shoulders back, your chest out and your stomach in? If not, then you may have to consider changing the way that you stand.

  1. Bad Computer Habits

Bad Computer Habits

You may have to stay on your computer for a long time because of work. You are too engrossed with what you are doing that you do not realize that your position will not do wonders for your soldiers.

Most of the time, when you are using your computer, you are probably hunched over and this can, of course, strains your shoulders.

  1. Sprain

You may think that sprains are only for ankles but this is not the case at all. There are some people, who get sprained shoulders and most of the time, they are not even aware of it. Do you think you are suffering from a sprain? The type of pain that you are feeling may depend on the type of situation that you have been into.

  1. Frozen Shoulder

Frozen Shoulder

This is one syndrome that people sometimes feel when their tissues grow so much and become thick that it will be hard to move them. There are times when you may have injured your joints and tissues and you are not even aware of it. This may cause the syndrome even though you are not aware as to how it happened.

Read: 10 Common Causes of Pain Between the Shoulder Blades

  1. Heart Attack

A lot of people even kids are aware of what a heart attack is. Basically, it is the condition of the heart wherein the oxygen that it needs will be drastically cut off.

When the heart does not have access to oxygen, it will stop pumping. Basically, those who are suffering from a heart attack would begin to feel a sensation similar to heartburn but the pain does not go away. Instead, the pain can travel towards the shoulders and even the neck area.

  1. Dislocation

Although the bones and joints that may be found near the shoulder area are limited, this does not mean that the bones cannot be dislocated. Sometimes, the dislocation is brought about by the separation of the bones because they have been removed because of an accident from the joints. Trauma may also cause dislocation.

  1. Pinched Nerves

Pinched Nerve in Shoulder Blade

This is the condition wherein the nerves are pinched because of a repeated position. When too much pressure is placed on the nerves, the nerves may become inflamed and start throbbing. There are various reasons why people may suffer from pinched nerves. It may be because of a bad sleeping position or having to stay in one position for a long period of time.

  1. Arthritis

There are a lot of people who are suffering from arthritis although they are not even aware of it. Most of the time, those who are affected by arthritis are the elderly but probably because of people’s lifestyles, younger people are already suffering from arthritis. When joints are inflamed, this means that people have arthritis.

How Can I Treat Shoulder Pain?

Typically, shoulder pain only lasts for one or two weeks.  Thankfully, most mild cases of shoulder pain can be treated in the comfort of your own home.

1.Pain Killers

Because shoulder injury is relatively common, you can often treat the pain with over the counter medication. Pain killers, including paracetamol or ibuprofen, in tablet or gel form, work well to alleviate any pain associated with shoulder injuries.

If you are suffering mild pain, the best solution is to speak to a pharmacist who can provide you with specialist advice based on your condition.

2. Heat Therapies

Many patients suffering from shoulder pain find that applying a heat or ice pack directly to the cause of the pain can alleviate some of the symptoms. If you have recently experienced minor injury and the area is swollen, this can prove very useful. Pharmacies and some specialist sports shops sell both hot and cold packs.

For a do it yourself solution, you can try using a bag of frozen vegetables or a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel for a simple home remedy.

3. Correct Your Posture

Did you know that bad posture when working or sitting at home is one of the leading cause of shoulder pain in adults?  There are various best practices you can implement when trying to improve your posture.

When you are seated, try to avoid leaning and resting on your arms and change your position regularly. Sit in an upright position relaxing your shoulders and let your arms hang by your sides. If seated, especially in the office, you may find it useful to have a pillow or a cushion to support your back. In other cases, you might decide to purchase a specialist seat to correct your posture or a back brace to help guide you into the correct position when seated and standing.

If you mostly experience pain when you’re lying down, try lying on your side that doesn’t cause you discomfort, supporting your neck with a pillow. You might find that placing another pillow behind your back will stop you from rolling over to your painful side. There are also several solutions on the market, such as full-body pillows which allow you to maintain the correct posture throughout the night and provide a comfortable sleep.

4. Adjust Your Daily Routine

While you’re recovering, you may need to make slight adjustments to your daily activities.   If you regularly engage in any strenuous activities such as intense gym workouts or lifting of heavy objects, it’s wise to reduce these temporarily. However, it’s important not to become too sedentary as avoiding using your shoulder can make the symptoms worse, by creating stiffness.

When you’re using your phone or tablet, try not to spend too long looking down at it – the angle on your neck can exacerbate your issues.  Instead, use your phone when seated at a table, ensuring you keep your head at 90 degrees.

If you are at work, you might find it useful to use a sit to stand workstation, if your company has these. Nevertheless, you can perform some basic exercises while sitting at your desk, including rolling your shoulders back and forth through their full range of movement to stop them from getting too stiff.

If you sit for most of the day, it’s essential to have a good chair that is correctly adjusted to your body measurements.  Most companies will have a health and safety representative that can take care of this for you, but failing that you should find useful guides and suggestions online.

5. Sleep

While we stress the importance of maintaining some form of physical activity, it’s essential that you do not do too much.  Striking a good balance between rest as well as physical exercise is vital for the healing process. You should avoid movements that make your pain worse, but getting enough sleep at the end of the day is equally as important for your body to heal.  Ensure you are achieving between 7 to 9 hours of sleep daily for maximum recovery.

6. Radiating Pain

It’s entirely possible that the pain is coming from somewhere else in your body, such as your neck.  Perhaps you have recently strained a muscle, and the pain is radiating through to your shoulder. This is referred to as a radiating pain – a pain which starts in another area of your body and travels towards another area.

When Should You See A Doctor?

If you’ve been experiencing pain for longer than two weeks, recently suffered a serious injury or a very sharp continuous pain that doesn’t go away, you will likely need to see a doctor.

Diagnosing A Problem

After assessing your symptoms, your doctor will provide an initial diagnosis.  Once diagnosed, your doctor or physiotherapist will recommend the best course of treatment for your symptoms.

If during the initial consultation, they’re unable to make a diagnosis, you may need some further tests to help them conclude. The most common tests you may undergo, include:

Blood Tests: While blood tests aren’t necessarily useful for diagnosing underlying shoulder conditions, they can rule out other problems such as arthritis

X-Rays: X-rays are great at identifying any problems with your bones in your shoulder. However, the causes of shoulder pain can often be quite subtle, making it hard for X Rays to detect. Problems with underlying soft muscle or tissue cannot be picked up by an x-ray.

MRI Scan: Ultrasounds are great at identifying areas of swelling and problems or damage to muscles tendons and soft tissues. MRI scans are used when the doctors may reasonably expect that there is a more complex problem.

Sometimes a dye injection may be used so the MRI can obtain a much clearer picture of what’s going on.


Depending on your diagnosis, there are a wide variety of treatments available to you to help with your underlying shoulder pain.

Physiotherapy: Most patients report vast improvements with their shoulder pain after physiotherapy.

A physiotherapist is a specialist in shoulder and muscular issues.  Through a range of strengthening treatments, such as stretching, massage and other therapeutic techniques, they can work with you to improve your symptoms. You can usually be referred to a physiotherapist through your healthcare consultant.

Steroid Injections: Another potential treatment for painful shoulders is a steroid injection.  These injections are directly into the joint and can help alleviate some shoulder pain.  To ease some of the discomfort associated with the initial injection, a local anaesthetic is usually used.

The injection works by reducing information in the local area, enabling you to move your shoulder much more comfortably. In turn, this makes physiotherapy exercises much more manageable as in theory; you should be able to conduct a wide range of movements with your shoulder. It’s worth noting that sometimes the pain can be a little worse for a short time after the injection, but this is normal and part of the usual recovery process.

Most patients report their shoulder pain improves quite quickly after an injection.

Surgery: As a last resort, you may have to undergo surgery to treat your condition. Thankfully most shoulder complaints resolve entirely without the need for surgery.

Most shoulder complaints that require surgery are performed through keyhole techniques, reducing your recovery time and any scars associated with the surgery.

Depending on your symptoms, various surgical options will be proposed to you, and you should decide on the best course of action based on your circumstances with assistance from a  qualified medical professional.

After surgery, you will likely undergo a period of physiotherapy while your body recovers, ensuring the full range of mobility of your shoulder once the healing process is complete.

Complementary Medicines: There are a wide array of complementary medicines and treatments available which some patients find help manage their pain issues. Usually, these treatments are considered safe and reliable. Still, before you begin any form of complementary medicine, you should always discuss this with your doctor.  This will lower the risk of any further problems, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions.

Acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic and osteopathy treatments are all examples of complementary therapies that customers find beneficial when tackling shoulder pain.

Exercises: There are several at-home exercises you can perform to help with some of your shoulder pain. It’s important that you remain active whilst not irritating the sight of the pain, so if anything does start to hurt or aggravate your symptoms, please stop and try another exercise.

Why not try these exercises to keep mobility in your shoulder:

Shoulder Stretch: Perform this exercise a total of 10 times.  Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for five seconds then pull your shoulder blades forward and hold for five seconds.

Door Presses: Standing in a doorway, put your arm out directly in front of you, place the back of your wrist against the door frame.  Push your arm against the door frame holding for five seconds. Repeat this action ten times before moving onto your other arm.

Door Rest: Once again, standing in a doorway, lift both hands above your head, either side of the door entrance.  Slowly lean forward, using your arms to support you until you feel some tension in your shoulders.  Hold for a maximum of 30 seconds before repeating four more times.


If you are experiencing any form of pain in the shoulder, there could be various underlying causes. Thankfully most shoulder issues last for a short period and usually can be healed without any medical intervention.

Sometimes if the problem is persistent and lasts a long time, it may point indicate the presence of conditions such as osteoarthritis or other muscular issues.

If you are an existing suffer sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis, it’s quite common for you to experience pain within your shoulder.  Other potential causes of shoulder pain include inflammation, damage to the muscles and tendons in the shoulder area, tension in the muscles or damage to the bones and cartilage themselves.

Hopefully, you have found this article useful in addressing some of the potential causes and treatments for any shoulder pain you are experiencing.

To help summarise, we have highlighted some of the key facts below:

  • The majority of left or right shoulder pain will resolve itself after two weeks
  • In the meantime, if you are experiencing pain, you may find taking some over the counter medication such as paracetamol and ibuprofen useful
  • Heat and ice packs can help further reduce swelling and give you back some movement in the joints
  • Reduce any strenuous activity but exercise the joint regularly to prevent it from becoming stiff and sore
  • If your symptoms last for longer than two weeks, it’s essential to see a medical professional to identify any potential longer-term concerns.

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