Right Shoulder Pain

There may be several factors behind pain in the right shoulder. Sometimes, the pain may arise from a problem in the affected area itself, or it may also be caused by problems occurring somewhere else in the body. This article outlines the common causes of this medical problem.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Feb 7, 2018
Pain in the right shoulder may be of less concern than when it occurs in the left shoulder. This is because, the latter may be one of the signs of an impending heart attack. The shoulder joint consists of a complex structural makeup. Due to the complex movements, the shoulder becomes vulnerable to sprains, strains, tears, and inflammation of the capsules, muscles, ligaments, and bursa. Shoulder pain may be due to a medical condition directly affecting the shoulder, or it may be a "referred pain" -- pain that occurs in an area of the body, while the actual source of pain is somewhere else.
What Causes Right Shoulder Pain
» Frozen Shoulder
This disorder is a common cause of stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint. The signs and symptoms of this condition, also known as adhesive capsulitis, occur gradually in the beginning, worsen over time, and resolve usually within one or two years. According to doctors, the symptoms of this condition occur in three stages, which are as follows:
Stage I: In this stage, the affected shoulder starts aching, and the pain gets worse with any movement. Because of the worsening pain, the shoulder's range of motion is also affected.
Stage II: It is at this stage where the affected shoulder becomes frozen or stiff. The pain, however, does not worsen and may actually decrease. However, the shoulder's range of motion gets significantly reduced.
Stage III: The condition begins to improve at this stage, as the shoulder starts regaining some movement, and the pain starts diminishing.
» Gallstones
The gallbladder stores bile, which is required by the body to break down fats. It is channeled from the gallbladder into the small intestine through ducts. If the bile contains excess cholesterol or bilirubin, then it can lead to the formation of hardened deposits in the gallbladder called gallbladder stones. Even too much of concentrated bile may cause the same problem. Normally, gallstones do not lead to any symptoms. However, if one or more of these stones block one of the ducts, then the condition may cause a sudden, intense pain, which may worsen rapidly. This pain is usually felt in the upper right abdominal section and radiates to the right shoulder, or the area between the shoulder blades.
» Lung Cancer
A constant pain in the right shoulder may be an indication of lung cancer. The pain, however, could be a referred pain. The cancerous tumor may press against a nerve within the lungs, which is interpreted by the brain as a pain coming from the shoulder. A lung cancer that has spread to other parts of the body may also trigger pain in the shoulder. Doctors say that if the cancer has metastasized to the liver, then it is likely to cause a referred pain in the upper right quadrant and right shoulder.
» Liver Abscess
Mostly caused by a bacterial infection, liver abscess is a pus-filled cavity within the liver. The pus is filled with bacteria, dead tissue, and white blood cells. If the infection is not treated, the abscess gets larger and more painful. As the liver is in the upper right abdominal region, the abscess formed in it may trigger pain in the same abdominal region and a referred right shoulder pain.
» Calcific Tendonitis
One of the worst types of shoulder pain is caused by a condition called calcific tendinitis; a disorder that mostly affects the rotator cuff. The problem occurs when calcium starts building up in the rotator cuff due to unknown reasons. This abnormal buildup creates pressure in the region, causing intense shoulder pain. The pain aggravates with any overhead activity, or by lying on the affected shoulder. Stiffness, reduced range of motion, and weakness of the shoulder may accompany the pain. The condition is self-limiting, but may take 5 to 10 years to resolve.
» Shoulder Osteoarthritis
The risk of shoulder osteoarthritis increases with age, but it may occur in young people too, because of injury or trauma to the shoulder area. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that causes wear and tear of cartilage in the joints. Shoulder pain is the most common symptom of shoulder osteoarthritis, which occurs when the affected shoulder is moved and persists even after the movement has ceased. The pain is intense when the shoulder is indulged in any form of exercise. Other symptoms include limited range of motion, stiffness, and a grating or creaking noise that occurs upon moving the shoulder.
» Other Causes
• Bursitis
• Labral tear
• Muscle spasm
• Pinched nerve
• Shoulder separation
• Sprains and strains
• Shoulder instability
• Dislocated shoulder
• Rotator cuff tendinitis
• Biceps tendon tear at the shoulder

When to See a Doctor
Medical attention should be sought in case of any of the following occurrences.
• If you are unable to carry objects, or use your arm
• If shoulder pain occurs while sleeping or resting
• If pain arises from a preexisting deformity of the joint
• If swelling, or bruising is noticeable around the joint, or arm
• If symptoms, such as fever, redness, warmth, or other unusual symptoms occur besides the pain
Treatment of left or right shoulder pain depends on the underlying cause of the problem. It may involve non-surgical, or surgical procedures. For instance, if it is the condition of gallstones that is found to be the cause, then the treatment may comprise a surgery to remove the gallbladder, or medicines that help dissolve the stones without the need of any invasive medical procedure.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical professional.
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