Why Am I Experiencing Shoulder Pain?

Why Am I Experiencing Shoulder Pain?

The shoulder contains three bones, two joints, and numerous muscles, tendons and ligaments that keep the area stable. This complex network enables the shoulder to perform a wide range of physical motion—from routine activities (reaching and light lifting) to high-impact athletics (skiing, weightlifting and rock climbing). When one area of the shoulder becomes compromised, it can affect and even prevent the way you perform your favorite activities. How can avoid and treat shoulder pain and discomfort?

At OrthoAspen, we utilize the latest techniques and state-of-the-art diagnostics to pinpoint exactly what’s causing shoulder pain symptoms. The goal of our experienced and fellowship trained physicians is to help implement the safest and most effective shoulder pain relief treatment methods possible.

Five Potential Causes of Shoulder Pain

Multiple interdependent components within the shoulder joint result in elevated susceptibility to injury and shoulder pain. Damage to one element, such as a single tendon or the cartilage lining of the joint, can result in chronic pain and a loss of function of the entire shoulder.

Likewise, the critical role of the shoulder joint in countless activities makes the shoulder prone to conditions such as:

  1. Rotator Cuff Tears
    Many of our local Aspen athletes are familiar with rotator cuff tears and injuries, although they can happen to anyone. Shoulder pain rotator cuff tears are typically diagnosed as degenerative or acute. Degenerative tears occur over time, usually affecting individuals age 40 and older. Acute tears are more commonly associated with trauma or injury.
  2. Shoulder Arthritisshoulder pain
    Shoulder arthritis most commonly manifests as either osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to shoulder pain, swelling, stiffness and a decreased range of motion can impact patients.
  3. Shoulder Impingement
    Also referred to as swimmer’s shoulder, tennis shoulder and rotator cuff tendinitis, shoulder impingement occurs over time from activities that involve repetitive overhead motion of the shoulder.
  4. Shoulder Instability
    Similar to shoulder impingement, shoulder instability can result from overusing the arm and shoulder through repetitive overarching motion. Those who play football, baseball, volleyball, golf and lacrosse often experience this condition.
  5. Frozen Shoulder Adhesive Capsulitis
    This injury results from inflammation of the ligaments that affix the shoulder bones to each other. Frozen shoulder is much more common in women between the ages of 40 and 60. In addition to pain, loss of mobility is often a symptom of frozen shoulder.

If an examination and diagnostic testing confirms the presence of one of the previously mentioned shoulder conditions, there are several treatment options to explore.

Conservative Approaches for Treating Shoulder Pain

Whenever possible, our OrthoAspen physicians will attempt to treat shoulder pain with conservative treatment methods, which include:

  • Lifestyle Modifications
    Patients who are experiencing symptoms due to trauma or overuse may attempt to modify certain activities. Your OrthoAspen physician might suggest reducing repetitive, straining or high-impact shoulder movements until the injury heals sufficiently.
  • Physical Therapy
    A carefully composed and personalized regimen of shoulder pain exercises and stretches can strengthen and restore affected bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. At Aspen Valley Hospital, certified physical therapists coordinate care with OrthoAspen physicians at every stage of the treatment process.
  • Icing and Heating
    For symptoms of pain and inflammation, the use of ice and heat packs (often alongside rest, compression and elevation) can reduce swelling and provide pain relief.
  • Bracing
    Devices such as bandaging, slings and shoulder braces are often diagnosed to allow the shoulder to rest and recover through immobilization and elevation or to create compression.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medications and Injections
    For mild pain, particularly after traumatic accidents, anti-inflammatory medications are effective for the management of arthritis and tendon inflammation. More severe inflammation and joint damage may require cortisone injections.

Although most shoulder injuries respond well to non-surgical treatment approaches, in some instances your OrthoAspen surgeon may suggest a surgical procedure if shoulder pain persists.

Finding the Right Shoulder Treatment For You

Conservative, comprehensive care is at the heart of our orthopedic philosophy. To ensure the best recovery pathway for your shoulder pain, we suggest scheduling a consultation with our OrthoAspen shoulder and elbow expert. To book your consultation for shoulder pain diagnosis and treatment, call us now at 970-544-1289.


Visit OrthoAspen in two convenient locations
Aspen Clinic
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Rd., Suite 2100,

Aspen, CO 81611
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400
Basalt Clinic
Midvalley Medical Center
1450 E. Valley Rd., Suite 201,

Basalt, CO 81621
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400