If you’ve ever experienced shoulder pain when lifting your arm, you’ll know how much it can limit your movements. Because the shoulder joint is involved in such a wide range of movements, it’s highly prone to injury and dislocation.

Shoulder Pain when Lifting Your Arm

There are numerous causes of shoulder pain, many of which are tied to shoulder impingement and rotator cuff tendinitis. In general, shoulder pain is due to inflammation in the tendons, a pulled muscle, damage to the rotator cuff, or injuries to parts of the body near the shoulder, such as neck or arms.

In other cases, shoulder pain when lifting your arm can be due to tendinitis, arthritis, or bursitis, a condition in which a fluid sac forms underneath the top part of the shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

One of the most common shoulder injuries is rotator cuff tendinitis. This occurs when the tendons and muscles attached to the shoulder joint become inflamed or injured.

Rotator cuff tendonitis most often occurs in people who are regularly involved in sports that involve extending the arm above the head, such as baseball.

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

A related condition is Shoulder Impingement Syndrome. This occurs when the top of the shoulder blade – known as the acromion – puts pressure on the underlying soft tissues of the shoulder as the arm is lifted away from the body. As the arm lifts, the acromion presses against the tendons and bursa of the rotator cuff, causing impingement. Over time, this can lead to painful bursitis and tendinitis. The shoulder becomes difficult to rotate, and you may have trouble moving your hands. If not treated as soon as possible,  shoulder impingement can worsen and become a rotator cuff tear.

Rotator cuff tendinitis tends to develop gradually. Although repetitive movements of the shoulder are often to blame, it can also result from keeping your shoulder in one position for too long a long time, such as while sleeping. Sometimes, there’s no identifiable cause.

Impingement Syndrome of Rotator Cuff

It’s also possible to have impingement syndrome without rotator cuff tendinitis. One of the most obvious signs of this annoying condition is is shoulder pain when lifting your arm up. As explained above, shoulder impingement syndrome is a result of the tendons in the shoulder being impinged upon by one of the shoulder bones. Likely causes include sports and other activities that involve overhead arm movements, such as swimming and weight lifting.

Managing the symptoms of rotator cuff tendinitis and/or impingement syndrome involve rest and anti inflammatory treatment such as ice and medication. However, symptoms often worsen over time and result in limited movement of the entire arm. In these cases, a physical exam is required to confirm a diagnosis with x-rays or an ultrasound scan. In some cases, shoulder surgery may be recommended.

Healing from a shoulder injury depends on the type and severity. Impingement syndrome may take up to eight weeks, while rotator cuff injuries that require surgery may take several months. Early treatment is the best way to secure a fast recovery. This is why it’s important to investigate any shoulder pain when lifting your arm as soon as possible by visiting a qualified physiotherapist or other health practitioner.