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If shoulder pain is not associated with a clear trauma, its most common cause is what’s known as rotator cuff syndrome. The rotator cuff comprises the attachment points for muscles that move and support the shoulder. Pain in these attachment points may be caused by repetitive, one-sided stress or because of incorrect loading. Pain usually occurs when the arm is raised laterally.

Sometimes the shoulder joint structures get irritated due to poor ergonomics when the shoulder joint is extended forwards for long periods of time (e.g. “mouse arm”). Shoulder pain may also be due to bursitis (inflammation of the synovial sac). In this case, the pain usually begins more abruptly and all shoulder movements are painful. If the pain is associated with repeated shoulder twists or dislocations without trauma, the cause is usually shoulder joint hypermobility. 


  • Avoid all repetitive movements that cause pain.
  • Pay attention to your posture and working positions.
  • Use analgesic gel, NSAIDs and cold compression, if necessary.
  • Remember to do shoulder exercises.

When should you seek treatment?

Contact a healthcare professional if the shoulder pain is associated with a trauma, such as a sprain or a fall. 

When should you see a physiotherapist?

See a physiotherapist: 

  • if you’ve been having symptoms for 2 to 4 weeks despite following the self-care instructions
  • if the shoulder pain episodes are recurrent.

Information source: The Finnish Medical Society Duodecim

FSHS Physiotherapist / 4 July 2023

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