Written By: Chloe Wilson BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed By: SPE Medical Review Board
Shoulder pain when lifting your arm is a common problem and there are lots of possible causes.
There may be pain as soon as you try to lift your arm or you might only get pain lifting your arm above your head.
Alternatively, the pain may be worse when raising your arm forwards, or you might get more shoulder pain when lifting your arm out to the side.
Here we will look at the common causes of shoulder pain when lifting, how they present and how to treat them.
Shoulder pain when lifting your arm is usually caused by something being:
The most common causes of shoulder pain when lifting your arm are:
Shoulder impingement syndrome is the most common cause of upper arm and shoulder pain. Impingement syndrome is where one or more of the soft tissues repeatedly gets pinched or trapped which leads to inflammation and tearing.
Common symptoms of shoulder impingement syndrome include:
Impingement Syndrome is usually caused by:
Shoulder impingement is often linked with:
Full Article: Shoulder Impingement Syndrome - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Another common cause of shoulder pain when lifting your arm is damage to one of the rotator cuff tendons. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that surround the shoulder joint.
Rotator cuff tears may be caused by:
Typical symptoms of rotator cuff tears are:
Full Article: Torn Rotator Cuff - Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
Another possible cause of shoulder pain when lifting your arm is a frozen shoulder aka adhesive capsulitis. This is where there is inflammation and thickening of the joint capsule, a bag-like structure that surround the shoulder joint.
A frozen shoulder goes through three stages:
A frozen shoulder typically affects people aged 40-70 and is more common in women than men. The cause of adhesive capsulitis is often unknown but may be linked to previous shoulder injuries, surgery or medical conditions such as diabetes.
Full Article: Frozen Shoulder – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment
There are a few other more unusual conditions that can cause shoulder pain when lifting arms
If you shoulder hurts when lifting your arm, don't despair. There are lots of things you can do to help reduce shoulder pain when raising your arm, and to regain flexibility if you can’t lift your arm, depending on the underlying cause.
Treatment for shoulder pain when lifting arms usually consists of:
The main aims of treatment for shoulder pain when lifting arms are to:
What Causes Bicep Pain When Lifting Arm? Pain in biceps when lifting the arm may be caused by biceps tendonitis where there is tenderness over the affected area. Shoulder pain when lifting the arm may also refer to the bicep region in the upper arm with impingement syndrome.
What Causes Tricep Pain When Lifting Arm? Pain at the back of the upper arm when lifting is typically caused by triceps tendonitis.
What Causes Deltoid Pain When Lifting Arm? Pain in the deltoid region of the upper arm can be caused by a number of things. If as soon as you move the arm there is shoulder pain when lifting, it may indicate brachial neuritis or a rotator cuff tear. Worsening deltoid and shoulder pain when lifting the arm up it is usually caused by a rotator cuff tear or supraspinatus tendonitis. If the pain in the deltoid region gets worse the higher you raise your arm, chances are it’s shoulder impingement syndrome or bursitis.
What Causes A Sharp Pain When Lifting Arm? If you get sharp shoulder pain when lifting your arm up, chances are something is getting squashed or caught. The most likely culprits are impingement syndrome, bursitis or a fracture.
What Causes Shoulder Pain When Lifting Objects? Some people only get shoulder pain when lifting heavy items. This is usually caused by rotator cuff injury or weakness and responds well to strengthening exercises and stabilization exercises.
What Causes Shoulder Clicking When Moving The Arm? Some people complain of shoulder pain and popping, clicking or grinding. There are lots of different causes of shoulder clicking and exercises can make a big difference.
Shoulder pain when lifting your arms up is a common problem that can usually be treated at home with a combination of exercises, medications and activity modification.
If symptoms fail to improve after 6 months of treatment, then surgery may be advised, most typically a subacromial decompression to open up the space and reduce the friction on the soft tissues which really helps to reduce shoulder pain lifting the arm above your head.
Shoulder pain when lifting the arm is often linked with age:
It is really important to know what is causing your shoulder pain when lifting your arm, so if you’re still not sure what is wrong, check out the shoulder pain diagnosis guide for help working out what is wrong. You may also be interested in the following articles:
Page Last Updated: 19/05/2022
Next Review Due: 19/05/2024
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