| Thu, May 07, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

Shoulder Pain: Similar Symptoms. Different Disorders.

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

shoulder painShoulder pain is a common complaint and causes disability in people of all ages — older adults included. About 21 percent of older adults suffer from shoulder disorders.1 Many people don’t see a doctor for shoulder pain because they assume it’s just a part of getting older or they hope the pain will go away on its own. The problem is, ongoing shoulder pain is a frequent cause of disability, depression, and a general feeling of ill health.

There are many disorders that can cause shoulder pain. Here are some common causes.

Rotator Cuff Disorders

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that connect the arm to the shoulder. Rotator cuff disorders usually cause inflammation, irritation, pinching or tearing of the tendons or bursa sac in or around the rotator cuff. These conditions are typically due to injury or overuse of the shoulder, especially in overhead activities.

Types of Rotator Cuff Disorders Include:

  • Tendinopathy
  • Impingement
  • Subacromial bursitis
  • Tendon tears (partial or full thickness)

Glenohumeral Disorders

The glenohumeral joint is the point where the top of the arm bone (humerus) meets the shoulder blade (scapula). Glenohumeral disorders usually cause the thickening and inflammation of the glenohumeral joint or wearing down of the cartilage that protects the joint. These conditions are sometimes due to injury.

Types of Glenohumeral Disorders Include:

  • Frozen shoulder
  • Osteoarthritis

Acromioclavicular Joint Disease

The Acromioclavicular (AC) joint is the point where the collarbone, or clavicle, meets the acromion, which is the tip of the shoulder blade. Acromioclavicular disease is osteoarthritis of the AC joint. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that covers the tops of bones degenerates or wears down due to age or injury.

Types of AC Joint Disease Include:

  • Osteoarthritis

Many of these disorders share similar symptoms, like pain, inflammation, swelling, grinding, catching and a limited range of motion.

Many times, these disorders are treated by conservative methods, like rest, immobilization, physical therapy or injections. Surgery may be necessary in the event of acute injury or in cases of extreme pain or severely limited function or range of motion. If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


Shoulder Pain: Diagnosis and Management in Primary Care: Learn potential symptoms of shoulder disorders — NCBI, U.S. Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

Ouch! 5 Common Causes of Shoulder Pain: From arthritis to rotator cuff damage, why your shoulders may hurt and possible treatments, AARP.org

Aging Health, Shoulder Pain in the Elderly: Future Medicine.com


1 Aging Health, Shoulder Pain in the Elderly, Future Medicine.com, February 9, 2015


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