The Many Faces of Arm Pain

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What are some of the causes of shoulder and arm pain?

The Many Faces of Arm Pain

Your arm is a very mobile and potentially vulnerable part of your body. The shoulder, in particular, is susceptible to a variety of conditions, and arm pains caused by these conditions can range from bothersome to downright debilitating.

Here are just a few examples of shoulder and arm pain causes:

  • Dislocation or subluxation: If the head of the humerus (the bone of your upper arm) is somehow forced out of its socket, you've suffered a dislocation. Through some type of movement or with the intervention of a medical professional, the bone is put back into place. When the bone merely slips out of joint then goes back on its own, it is considered a subluxation. In general, a trauma of some sort is required for this to occur, though some people have severely unstable shoulders that slip out of joint spontaneously. Upper arm pain from a dislocation will get worse with movement and better with rest.
  • Frozen shoulder: If the capsule that surrounds the shoulder joint becomes inflamed and binds down, movement becomes severely restricted. In addition, efforts at moving the arm are quite painful. Some cases of frozen shoulder "thaw" on their own over time; however, most require physical therapy to restore motion, and sometimes surgery is necessary.
  • Rotator cuff injury: These muscles essentially hold the shoulder in place and allow the arm to perform complex motions, such as reaching and throwing. A rotator cuff injury causes pain and weakness with movement, especially when reaching overhead or behind the back.
Like with any musculoskeletal injury, determining the precise cause of your arm pain is crucial to getting the treatment you need to restore function. Find a clinician in your area by going to and using the free clinician search tool.



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