Referred Shoulder Pain: What does it mean?


Pain Management
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Shoulder pain, while common, can be a disabling condition. In fact, research has shown that about 70% of patients in the general population complains of shoulder pain and only 25% may experience a full recovery.

This condition may arise from shoulder injuries due to arthritis, a tear in the rotator cuff, and other structural, or systemic disorders. However, if health problems arise elsewhere in your body and manifest as a shoulder pain, then you might be experiencing referred pain. 

Common Signs of Referred Shoulder Pain

According to our experts in pain management clinic Miami, patients with referred shoulder pain often experience a dull ache in the shoulder with varying intensity or severity. They may also feel some stiffness in the neck, upper back, and the arms. In some cases, the pain could extend to the wrist or hand. Patients might also experience ‘pins and needles’.

Referred shoulder pain can restrict a patient’s movements. If the pain has been persistent for months, the patient could develop muscle tightness in the shoulder. 

Diagnosing and Treating Referred Shoulder Pain

Your pain management doctor in Miami or a physiotherapist may conduct a series of tests including X-Ray, MRI, and a CT Scan, to determine the underlying cause of the referred shoulder pain. Treating this condition will depend on an accurate diagnosis but the most common therapies may include:

  • Pain medication
  • TENS machines for pain relief
  • Postural braces and support for reduction and prevention of painful episodes
  • Therapeutic pillows
  • Hot or cold compresses, depending on the doctor’s recommendation

However, even with these treatments, referred shoulder pain may still recur. For this matter, the doctor might also have to look into the patient’s family medical history or investigate other potential distal causes, especially if the patient is above 65 years old. 

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Referred Shoulder Pain as a Symptom of Other Conditions

When a chronic referred shoulder pain can’t be explained, it’s possible that it’s a symptom of other conditions, such as:

  • Stomach issues

You could be experiencing inflammation of gallstones, or the pancreas with a referred shoulder pain symptom. Or, if you’ve had surgery on the belly, referred shoulder pain could be one of the side effects of the procedure.

  • Heart issues

When referred shoulder pain is felt on the left side of the body, it may be a sign of a heart problem, such as angina or a heart attack. If you’re experiencing the latter, the shoulder pain will be accompanied by chest pain and shortness of breath. Some people could mistake a heart attack with an upset stomach or heartburn.

  • Lung issues

Referred shoulder pain may also be an early sign of developing tumors, pneumonia, and lung cancer, or it could mean that there are blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolism). People with this condition may feel like they’ve pulled their shoulder muscles. The pain might make it harder to lie down or go to sleep.

A ruptured ovarian cyst, shingles, and Paget’s disease may also cause referred shoulder pain. Thus, if this pain has persisted for months, it’s best to get tested as soon as possible to ease your worries or facilitate early intervention to avoid complications.

Find our more about our pain management doctor Miami

At Genlife Miami pain clinic, prior to beginning treatment, your signs and symptoms are thoroughly evaluated to gather an accurate assessment and an objective measurement of your medical needs. Objective measurements give us a better understanding of the unique attributes of the pain our patients are experiencing.

When looking for pain management in Miami, there are several options – both surgical and non-surgical. As a pain management doctor in Miami who believes that surgery should be a last resort, Dr. Mahl utilizes a range of non-surgical treatment options.

Aside from Prolotherapy, the following forms of pain management treatments are also provided on-site at our Pain Management Clinic in Miami:

If you would like more information about pain management methods, don’t hesitate to Contact Us.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.