How Do I Know If My Shoulder Ache Is Serious?

Shoulder ache is a common problem, but…

It can be difficult to know when to seek medical attention. Some shoulder pain is mild and goes away on its own with rest and over-the-counter pain medication. However, other shoulder pain can be more serious and require medical treatment. Shoulder pain is a common ailment that can arise from various causes, ranging from overuse and strain to more serious underlying conditions. While occasional discomfort may be a result of daily activities or minor injuries, persistent or severe shoulder pain could indicate a more serious issue that requires medical attention. So today, we’ll explore the different aspects of shoulder pain, potential causes, and signs that suggest it might be time to consult a healthcare professional.

shoulder ache
  • Severe Pain: If your shoulder ache is severe, especially at night, it could be a sign of a more serious problem, such as a fracture or infection.
  • Difficulty Moving Your Shoulder: If you have difficulty moving your shoulder, it could be a sign of a torn ligament or tendon.
  • Swelling Or Redness: If your shoulder is swollen or red, it could indicate inflammation or infection..
  • Weakness: If your shoulder is weak, it could be a sign of nerve damage or a torn muscle.
  • Popping Or Clicking Sounds: If you hear popping or clicking sounds when you move your shoulder, it could be a sign of a torn ligament or tendon.

Signs that Your Shoulder Pain Might be Serious:

How long have you had the pain? If you have been experiencing shoulder aches for more than a few weeks, it is more likely that they are serious.

What makes the pain better or worse? If certain activities or positions make your shoulder ache worse, it is more likely to be serious.

  • Persistent Pain: While minor discomfort may resolve with rest, persistent or worsening pain that doesn’t improve with conservative measures could be indicative of an underlying problem.


  • Limited Range of Motion: Difficulty moving your shoulder or performing daily activities may suggest an injury or inflammation that requires attention.


  • Pain at Rest: Shoulder pain that persists even when you’re not using the joint could signal a more serious issue, such as inflammation or a structural problem.


  • Weakness or Numbness: Weakness in the arm or a sensation of numbness could be indicative of nerve impingement or other neurological issues that warrant medical evaluation.


  • Traumatic Injury: If your shoulder pain is the result of a recent injury, such as a fall or impact, it’s crucial to seek medical attention to rule out fractures, dislocations, or other acute issues.


  • Swelling or Bruising: Swelling, bruising, or visible deformities around the shoulder joint may indicate a more severe injury that requires immediate medical assessment.


  • Night Pain: Shoulder pain that intensifies during the night, disrupting sleep, could be a sign of an underlying condition such as rotator cuff impingement or tendinitis.


  • Pain Radiating Down the Arm: Pain that radiates down the arm could be associated with nerve compression or other issues that necessitate a thorough evaluation.

Do you have any other symptoms? If you have other symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, or weight loss, it is more likely that your shoulder ache is caused by a more serious underlying condition.
If you are unsure whether or not your shoulder pain is serious, it is always best to err on the side of caution and see a doctor.

Treatment For Shoulder Ache

The treatment for shoulder discomfort will be determined by the source of the pain. Following are some basic treatments:

  • Rest: Avoiding activities that increases the shoulder ache is often the first step in treatment. Which means, if you are feeling some kind of stiffness or pain in your shoulder then do take some rest. 
  • Ice: Applying ice to the shoulder for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day, can help reduce inflammation and pain. However, make sure you are icing the shoulder without pressing on the pain too much. 
  • Over-The-Counter Pain Medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help to reduce pain and inflammation. These medicines can reduce your pain sometimes. 
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy exercises can help to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder and improve the range of motion. These exercises will ease your pain and help you move your shoulder freely. 
  • Corticosteroid Injections: Inflammation and pain are cured with the help of Corticosteroid injections. However, these injections should only be used sparingly, as they can have side effects.
  • Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair a torn ligament or tendon, or to remove bone spurs. Sometimes, when a shoulder ache is beyond imagination, surgery could be an option. 


Shoulder ache is a common problem, but it is important to seek medical attention if the pain is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other symptoms such as swelling, redness, weakness, or popping or clicking sounds. Early treatment can help to prevent long-term damage and improve your chances of a full recovery.

If you are experiencing shoulder aches, it is important to see a physiotherapist to get a diagnosis and treatment plan. Early treatment can help to prevent long-term damage and improve your chances of a full recovery.