Shoulder Pain Without Injury: 5 Common Causes

Shoulder Pain Without Injury: 5 Common Causes

Shoulder pain can occur for numerous reasons. The most obvious is the result of a traumatic event, such as falling or being in a car accident. However, it's also common to develop pain in this area of your body without suffering an injury.

Our providers at Valley Neurology and Pain have specialized training in diagnosing and treating shoulder pain. If you have shoulder pain symptoms, it's essential to get treatment as soon as possible. Not only can quick attention help ease your discomfort and restore your quality of life, but it can also keep your shoulder problems from worsening.

Here are five common causes of shoulder pain that develop without an injury that we see at our locations in Phoenix and Peoria, Arizona.

1. Arthritis

There are numerous types of arthritis, but each one describes inflammation of at least one joint, such as the shoulder. Two common forms of shoulder arthritis that we see without a previous injury involve osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.


This "wear and tear" condition involves the smooth cartilage that covers the ends of the bones where they form a joint. This cartilage allows the bones to move against each other smoothly. When you have osteoarthritis, your cartilage wears away, causing your bones to rub against each other.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) impacts the joint lining, or synovium, that lubricates the joint so it can move easier. Unlike osteoarthritis, RA is an autoimmune disorder. This means the body attacks itself, and in this case, it attacks the synovium. It usually affects multiple joints, typically on both sides of the body, such as both shoulders.

2. Bursitis

Your joints aren't the only parts of your body that have tissue to reduce friction when you move. You also have more than 150 thin, sac-like structures known as bursae. Their job is to keep soft tissue, such as skin, tendons, and ligaments, from rubbing against bone.

Bursae are very thin, and when they function normally, you don't even notice them. However, if a bursa is exposed to too much friction, it can grow irritated or inflamed. If this occurs, the bursa can become thicker and sometimes produce fluid. It can even become infected in some cases.

You have bursae all over your body, but the most common areas to develop bursitis involve the shoulders, elbows, and knees. In most cases, it occurs from repetitive stress, but it can also start without an obvious cause.

3. Adhesive capsulitis

Do you have stiffness and pain in your shoulder? It could be adhesive capsulitis, more commonly known as frozen shoulder. This shoulder pain occurs when the connective tissue surrounding the joint becomes thickened and tightened, restricting movement and function.

Anyone can develop frozen shoulder, but it's most common in women aged 40 and older, people with systemic diseases, such as diabetes, and individuals who have experienced reduced mobility or prolonged immobility of the shoulder.

4. Rotator cuff tears

Nearly 2 million Americans experience rotator cuff problems each year. These injuries involve a cuff-like group of muscles and tendons that help secure the head of your upper arm bone to your shoulder socket. The group also allows you to lift and rotate your arm.

It's easy to assume that a condition described as a tear involves a traumatic event. However, while you can sustain an acute rotator cuff tear through physical injury, they can also develop from wear and tear over time. These tears are known as degenerative rotator cuff tears, and they typically become more common with age, usually in the dominant arm.

Factors that can increase your chances of suffering degenerative rotator cuff tears include:

  • Repetitive stress
  • Reduced blood supply
  • Bone spurs

People aged 40 and older have the highest risk of developing rotator cuff injuries, especially those who do repetitive or overhead activities.

5. Spine or disc issues

Believe it or not, it's possible to have shoulder pain that doesn't involve your shoulder itself. Instead, these symptoms can originate in another part of your body, such as your spine or intervertebral discs. For example, you can experience a herniated disc in your neck or upper back that causes pain to radiate into your shoulder, arm, or hand.

In addition to spine or disc issues, you can also experience shoulder pain from other health problems, ranging from pneumonia, pancreatitis, and gallstones to inflammation around the heart and heart attack.

Fortunately, with our state-of-the-art diagnostic techniques and cutting-edge pain management solutions, we can identify the specific cause of your shoulder pain and create a personalized treatment strategy.

At Valley Neurology and Pain, with three convenient Arizona locations in Phoenix and Peoria, you are never a number. Your consultation, examination, and treatment are always administered by a highly qualified physician. If you would like to schedule a shoulder pain consultation, we have experienced physicians who can help you, including Toure Knighton, MD, Jin Yuk, MD, and Patricia Henthorn, DC, DAAMUAP. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone today.

Valley Neurology and Pain of Arizona Phoenix Magazine Top Doctor Award - Valley Neurology and Pain of Arizona

phone 480-508-2700

fax 866-371-2839

place 426 E Southern Ave Ste 101 Tempe, AZ 85282

place 2330 N 75th Ave Ste 113 Phoenix, AZ 85035