Shoulder Pain

Table of Contents

    Understanding Shoulder Pain

    The tendons and muscles of your shoulder combine into an incredible work of engineering that allows your body to have a wide range of motion. With this mobility, however, there are complex elements to your shoulder that can become injured all too easily.

    Your shoulder is a complex piece of anatomy made up of three different bones. It consists of your humerus bone (the upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone).

    The top of your upper arm bone (the humerus) meets your torso inside a round socket called the glenoid. This glenoid in your shoulder is the socket that allows your shoulder to act as a ball-and-socket joint. You have a total of four ball-and-socket joints in your body, with one on either side of your hips and two on your shoulders. These work by allowing one of your bones to move within the hollow of another bone.

    Beyond the bones of your shoulder, there is a network of muscles and tendons that are all centered within your shoulder socket. We refer to these muscles and tendons of your shoulder as your rotator cuff. The tissue of your shoulder plays a key role in covering the top of your upper arm bone and attaching this bone to your shoulder blade.

    What Is the Main Cause of Shoulder Pain?

    There are many different causes. Some common issues that bring people to our Singapore clinic include the following:

    • Bursitis: When the small, fluid-filled sacs (called bursae) that cushion and lubricate the bones, muscles, and tendons become inflamed, you have a painful condition called bursitis. This can be caused by overuse in cases of athletes as well as trauma and other underlying conditions. The pain can be sharp or dull and will often create heat, swelling, tenderness, and a limited range of motion.
    • Osteoarthritis: A degenerative condition that can affect any joint in your body, osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage inside of your joint deteriorates over time. The condition becomes more likely with age and overuse but there are also genetic risk factors and other issues like obesity that increase your likelihood of developing osteoarthritis.
    • Tendinitis: If the tendons that connect your muscles and bones and bones become inflamed, you have tendinitis. Tendinitis causes pain, tenderness, weakness, and stiffness. It can be caused by overuse, poor form during movements, trauma, or an underlying condition. As you age, developing tendinitis becomes increasingly common.
    • Rotator Cuff Tear: The muscles and tendons that surround your joint can tear due to trauma or general long-term wear and tear. This condition is characterised by pain, weakness, limited range of motion, instability, nighttime pain, and eventually muscle atrophy.
    • Impingement: When your rotator cuff tendons are squeezed or crushed between the bones of the joint due to repetitive motions (especially overhead) you may experience pain, weakness, and a reduced range of motion. This condition can cause pain, weakness, a limited range of motion, and a telltale clicking or catching sensation in your joint. Impingement is common among athletes and becomes increasingly common with age.
    • Instability: A shoulder injury resulting from the upper arm bone being pushed out of the socket.
    • Factures: Broken your upper arm bone (humerus), collarbone (clavicle), or shoulder blade (scapula) will cause intense shoulder pain.
    • Adhesive Capsulitis: Often referred to as frozen shoulder, adhesive capsulitis cause your shoulders to be stiff and painful. This condition also brings symptoms of pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion. Having adhesive capsulitis becomes more common after the age of 40.
    • Shoulder Dislocation: When your humerus bone slips out of the joint, which most often occurs during sports or an accident, you will experience extremely intense pain.
    • Separation

    To help you decide which one you might be dealing with, there are a few telltale symptoms to consider.

    How Do I Know What Type of Shoulder Pain I Have?

    When you arrive at our Singapore clinic, our specialist will review your symptoms to help determine the cause. Here are a few of the common questions that you may be asked about your condition.

    • What Is Your Pain Like?
    • Dull or achy
    • Sharp or severe
    • When Did it Start?
    • It was gradual?
    • It came on suddenly?
    • What brings on the pain?
    • Many or most of your daily activities?
    • A specific injury?
    • Overuse or exercise
    • Painful when not moving
    • Are you experiencing any other
    • symptoms?
    • Inability to move your shoulder?
    • Muscle spasm
    • Pins and needles sensation of numbness or tingling
    • Weakness
    • Stiffness
    • Swelling
    • Visible deformation

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    Shoulder Pain Treatment in Singapore

    Pain in your shoulders is a common problem in Singapore and can be caused by several factors, including overuse, injury, and medical conditions such as arthritis. If it is giving you trouble, don't worry - there are plenty of treatment options available!

    Considering getting treatment for shoulder pain in Singapore? We are ready to help! The orthopaedic doctor here at Ray of Health will diagnose your issue and create a customised treatment plan to get you feeling like your own self again. Some other orthopaedic treatments we offer are, wrist injury treatment and ACL tear recovery.

    Why suffer in pain for another day? Reach out to us online, email us at, call +65 6235 8781, or chat with us on WhatsApp at +65 8028 4572.

    When To Seek Shoulder Treatment?

    While a sudden injury makes it painfully obvious that you’ve got to get to the doctor as soon as possible, things are not so clear when pain comes on slowly. When you are dealing with wear and tear that has slowly caused an increasing amount of pain over the years, how do you know when it’s time to see a doctor?

    Here are a few common symptoms that will let you know it’s time to get treatment.

    • Your range of motion is limited.
    • Doing everyday movements has become painful.
    • You feel pain even when resting, making it hard to sleep
    • You feel numbness or tingling.
    • The muscles have become unusually weak.
    • The pain worsens and is persistent despite relief medications as well as heat and ice treatments

    If you are suffering from any of these common symptoms, it is time to make an appointment with our specialists to relieve shoulder pain.

    When Is It An Emergency?

    There are times when the pain goes from being an annoyance to an absolute emergency. If you are experiencing any of the following issues, it is time to drop everything and get to the doctor right now.

    • The pain is sudden or intense.
    • You are feeling dizzy.
    • You have shortness of breath.
    • The ache is extending across your jaw, neck, or arm.
    • You have chest tightness.
    • You can’t move your arm.
    • There is noticeable swelling or bruising.
    • Dislocation
    • There is an obvious deformity.

    Remember, the pain won’t go away on its own. On the contrary, the injuries will only get worse with time. Delaying treatment can cause lifelong complications. Visit the local A&E for urgent treatment or book an appointment in our Singapore treatment centre for less pressing issues.

    What Is the Process for Shoulder Treatment?

    When you go to get shoulder pain treatment, the doctor will start with a physical examination. It is important to check your range of motion and look for any sign of deformation, swelling, or other types of abnormalities.

    After a physical examination, your doctor might want to move on to one of a few different types of tests (such as X-rays, MRI and CT scans) to take a closer look.

    • X-rays: These are a great way to identify causes like bone spurs, arthritis, or other issues with your bone. In some cases, doctors may recommend an arthrogram, which uses dye in the x-ray process to better highlight issues.
    • MRI scan: Using magnetic aids and radio waves offers more detailed images than an x-ray and may be more useful for certain injuries.
    • CT scan: This type of scan offers a series of x-rays imagined from different angles. With these different perspectives, your doctor can see potential issues that may not show up on a traditional x-ray.
    • Electromyography (EMG): This testing tool records the electrical activity of your body to look for nerve or muscle issues as well as potential issues with nerve-to-muscle signalling.
    • Arthroscopy: This more in-depth surgical procedure uses a small fibre-optic camera to take high-definition images. This is often done immediately before treatment.


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    Frequently-Asked Questions

    What Can Cause Shoulder Pain Without Injury?

    While injuries are an obvious cause, sometimes that pain seems to come out of nowhere. When this happens, self-diagnosis is not a good idea but there are a few potential diagnoses that you may get at the doctor’s office.

    One of the most common causes is an issue with the rotator cuff tendon. This tendon can become inflamed during heavy repetitive workouts or due to long-term wear and tear. This condition is called rotator cuff tendinitis, and it’s one of the most common reasons why people come to our Singapore clinic. Long-term wear also affects your other body parts causing foot pains and lower back aches.

    Inside your joint, you have small sacs filled with fluid. They create a cushion between the soft tissue and the bone to reduce friction. When you overuse your shoulder, these sacs can become swollen and cause subacromial bursitis.

    In the case of acute injury, you can be dealing with the splitting and tearing of tendons. This is a common sudden injury or it might gradually come on as you get older. Similarly, instability can be the result of an injury or it may become an issue with increased wear and tear.

    If your pain has slowly worsened over the years, it could be caused by arthritis. Meanwhile, sudden intense pain could be the result of a fracture to your collarbone, an upper arm bone,  or a shoulder blade.

    You might be interested in these exercises to improve shoulder mobility and prevent muscle cramps.

    What Are the Home Remedies for Shoulder Pain Treatment?

    If you think that you may have a dislocation, separation, or fracture, it is crucial to get to a doctor for urgent care. These issues won’t get better on their own and delaying your treatment can lead to lifelong problems.

    However, if you haven’t suffered an acute injury and have annoying but manageable pain, there are a few home remedies that will help. It is essential to keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to see a doctor. If your symptoms don’t go away within a couple of weeks or are continually getting worse, it’s time to book your appointment with an orthopaedic doctor in our Singapore clinic.

    If your pain is mild, start with heat and ice, and try to rest as much as possible To help with the swelling and discomfort, look to relieve medications like aspirin or ibuprofen. You can also take measures to prevent shoulder pain such as warming up before exercising and not to overexert yourself.

    Is Ice or Heat Better for Treatment?

    The general rule for ice vs heat is to base it on the time of onset. When the pain first starts, it’s best to use ice for the first 72 hours or so. While it’s not the most comfortable option, it helps reduce inflammation.

    If you’re dealing with an old injury, heat can be helpful. When you apply heat, you can increase the blood flow while relaxing tight muscles. Heat on the area will relieve nagging aches and pains while improving the range of motion.

    About the Author

    Dr. James - Orthopaedic Surgeon in Singapore

    Dr James Tan C H

    Dr James Tan is a highly skilled orthopaedic surgeon who has more than 10 years of experience in sports surgery and exercise medicine. Apart from partnering the industry to pioneer advanced and proven treatment techniques, Dr Tan has treated athletes from the Singapore National Teams and professional footballers from the Singapore Premier League and the Young Lions. He is a member of the elite Asian Shoulder and Elbow Group and a founding member of the Singapore Shoulder and Elbow Surgery Society.