Causes of shoulder pain during arm stretching or lifting

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The start of shoulder pain might be connected to an injury or overuse that occurs with repetitive tasks or activities such as in certain sports, exercise and household tasks. Overuse or injury of the shoulder joint can lead to damage in the ligaments, muscles and tendons in the shoulder. There are a number of possible causes of shoulder pain that occurs when the shoulder joint is used during arm lifting or stretching overhead.

Close look on shoulder pain

The shoulder pain can originate in the joints or tendons, muscles and ligaments that usually worsen during movement of the shoulder or arm. The rotator cuff which is comprised of 4 tendons facilitates range of motion in the shoulder joint.

Overuse or injury can lead to inflammation, tearing, swelling around the tendons or bony changes which causes pain when the arm is moved straight in front, behind the back or above the head. In case of chronic shoulder pain, it is usually due to injuries. In addition, long-term shoulder conditions can develop over time with recurrent episodes of discomfort and pain.

Shoulder pain
The shoulder pain can originate in the joints or tendons, muscles and ligaments that usually worsen during movement of the shoulder or arm.

What are the possible causes?

Certain conditions that can cause shoulder pain when reaching above the head or lifting include frozen shoulder syndrome, arthritis, dislocated shoulder and fractures. In some cases, bursitis can also cause shoulder pain when the subacromial bursa which is a sac that cushions the tendons is damaged and becomes swollen.

The usual cause of this type of pain is rotator cuff tendinitis which occurs when the damaged tendons are swollen and inflamed and end up compressed in between the bones. This condition is due to the normal wear and tear linked to injuries, age and constant use of the shoulder joint.


The pain from a rotator cuff injury typically occurs in the front part of the shoulder or exterior of the shoulder. The pain worsens if the individual lifts an object over the head or when raising the arm.

Always bear in mind that the pain might prevent the individual from using the arm and the condition often causes pain while asleep. The symptoms of bursitis include stiffness, aching, pain when moving or pressing the joint as well as redness and swelling around the joint.


The shoulder pain can be properly managed with rest, application of ice and exercises to improve the range of motion as well as strengthen the tendons and muscles. The cycle of applying the ice is usually 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off and must be done 3-4 times throughout the day for 3 days. After a few days of rest and the swelling and pain subsided, the individual can slowly resume his/her normal activities. An exercise and stretching routine can help prevent the development of frozen shoulder.

Considerations to bear in mind

The shoulder pain requires medical care if the individual experiences incapacitating joint pain that persists for more than 2 weeks, reddish or bluish skin near the site of injury, excessive swelling, fever or piercing pain. Shoulder pain can be prevented by stretching and strengthening the muscles and tendons as well as using the correct techniques during sports and exercise.

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