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What Brings You to MOSS? Common Shoulder Pain Causes

Shoulder August 25, 2020

Reaching up to the top shelf to grab your favorite mug. Holding the back of the passenger seat while you reverse the car into the driveway. Lifting up hay bales, bags of fertilizer, and saddles. Pitching a softball. Reaching to press the snooze button one more time.

What do all of these things have in common? Shoulder movement.

The importance of a functional shoulder and cuff can’t be underestimated, yet we find that many of our patients downplay their pain and discomfort. 

With a 70 percent lifetime prevalence of shoulder pain, one of the most difficult parts is the persistent and recurrent pain people experience in the long term. Up to 50 percent of shoulder pain patients report persistent and recurring pain.

Our expert therapists work closely with our patients to uncover the root cause of their shoulder pain and discomfort to create a healing & therapeutic plan tailored to their goals, pain levels, and progress. 

Let’s look at a few of the most common shoulder pain causes that we’ve seen here at Moss Rehabilitation so you can evaluate your own discomfort & situation. 

Injuries & Accidents

There are four general shoulder injuries that lead to shoulder pain.

First is a fracture, or a break in the bone. The second is a dislocation of the shoulder, meaning the arm bone “pops out” of the shoulder socket. 

The third most common injury is a rotator cuff tear or another traumatic tear in the muscles & tissues in the shoulder. And lastly would be general wear and tear on the muscles and/or joints.

Any number of injuries or accidents can cause these things to occur. Falls and accidents are some of the most common, especially in older patients, as the impact can lead to any or all of these injuries.

If you’re looking for more detailed information on any of these conditions and their relation to shoulder pain, MOSS has got you covered!

Sign up for our FREE shoulder workshop here & check out our free report answering common shoulder pain questions here.

Rapid and sudden movements can also lead to tears and dislocations. Dropping something and reaching for it too quickly, quickly extending the arm to break a fall, a horse taking off running & yanking the reins from your hand, shoveling dirt… you get the idea!

These injuries can also lead to pain in other areas in the shoulder. A dislocation, for example, can also tear cartilage or irritate the bursa sac in the shoulder leading to more pain and discomfort.

Overuse and Repetitive Motions with Little or No Rest

One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is go for a nice cycle. Since I don’t do it often during the week, I take it somewhat easy on the weekends to allow my body to warm up to the motions and get used to the movements.

“Weekend Warriors”, on the other hand, take their weekend seriously, using the time to dive into their hobbies of gardening, golf, tennis, softball, fixing up the house, getting farm chores done, etc with little or no rest.

We often see these Weekend Warriors here at MOSS with shoulder and rotator cuff pain because they overuse their shoulders without adequate rest, stretching, or pacing of their activities. 

These overuse and repetitive motion injuries are two of the most common shoulder pain causes. We often see people involved in sports like gymnastics, football, baseball, hockey, and others come to us with shoulder pain that resulted from their repetitive and constant movements in the shoulder.

This is true even with young & healthy athletes. With sports seasons extending throughout the year, many young athletes don’t get adequate rest. We also see that lack of foundational  strength in the core & other parts of the body can lead to shoulder issues over time. 

Health Conditions

With 50 million people diagnosed with arthritis and the shoulder the third most common area where it manifests, it’s safe to say we see many shoulder pain patients that come in as a result of their arthritis.

Arthritis causes swelling & inflammation in the joints leading to stiffness, mobility issues, and, of course, pain. Arthritis pain will worsen over time, so it’s best to get into therapy as soon as you experience symptoms to control the condition as you age.

Past injuries in the area greatly increase your risk of pain and injury in the shoulder, especially if you never received proper treatment. 

Some people are genetically wired to have loose and super flexible joints. This increased mobility can also put you at a higher risk of developing shoulder pain. 


Recently, we’ve seen many more people with shoulder pain that results from bad posture. 

With more people working from home now than ever before, those with improper desk set-ups, uncomfortable chairs, incorrect table/computer height, hunching over a smartphone, and more can all lead to pain and stiffness in the shoulders and neck.

Referral Pain

Speaking of the neck…

Because the neck and the shoulder are so close in proximity and work together in many movements, neck pain, stiffness, and/or issues can easily lead to pain in the shoulder as well. We call this “referral pain.”

The experienced physical therapists here at MOSS are able to evaluate patients with cutting-edge tech and good ol’ fashioned touch to determine the root cause of your pain. Instead of just working on where you feel the pain, we want to target the source to provide you with long-term and long-lasting pain relief.

This is a two-way street as well. Shoulder issues, injuries, and pain can cause referral pain in the neck and upper back. 


We recently had a patient who injured his shoulder while stacking crates in his barn. This led to him not being able to lift his arm above his head.

In order to continue his work and his life, the best thing he could do was to compensate with different movements and increased use of his other arm. Of course, this led to him overusing the other shoulder and decreasing use of the injured one. 

The lack of movement in the injured shoulder then led to stiffness and even more lack of mobility, leading to neck and back issues as well.

See where we’re going with this? We find that many patients adjust their movements and actions to compensate for the pain they feel in the shoulder, often without realizing that they’re creating issues in other areas of the body.

Neck pain causes more than just neck pain. It’s shoulder pain, back pain, headaches… 

Learn more about how to treat your neck pain by targeting common neck pain causes on our blog.

Operative Pain

Unfortunately, shoulder and rotator cuff operations tend to have uncomfortable & long recovery processes. 

Part of the pain comes from the surgery itself, but we’ve found many patients are equally uncomfortable from the post-operative sling. The sling itself can create pain in the shoulder, neck, upper back, and even your lower back as well. Headaches and stiffness are common side effects of this as well.

Many of our operative shoulder patients receive as much therapy for the stiffness in the neck & back post-op as they do for the shoulder itself.

Shoulder Pain Causes Distress & Discomfort: Get Started on Your Journey to Recovery Today

Shoulder pain causes can vary from traumatic falls to playing too much softball. However your shoulder pain began, though, it should be taken seriously before it becomes a more serious problem. 

Not only does it cause pain & discomfort in many areas of the body, but shoulder pain can also easily worsen over time, making it harder to get to reach your health goals. 

Is it your goal to use your shoulder normally again with less pain and stiffness? Great! Or do you simply want to be able to drive again with less shoulder pain? Also great!

At MOSS Rehabilitation, we follow your lead on what your goals are. We take the time to cultivate a relationship with you so we can craft a healing plan specific to your condition, needs, and goals.

Contact us to set up a consultation. Take the first step on your path to recovery with us today!

MOSS Rehabilitation is offering a FREE Shoulder and Rotator Cuff Workshop on September 12th 2020 at our Springtown location. We’ll be going over some common questions, shoulder pain causes, treatment plans, and operative information to help you understand what your path to long-term recovery could look like. It’s FREE to register and attend, so what do you have to lose? Click here if you’re ready to start on your journey to reach your health goals.

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