Common Shoulder Problems and How to Prevent Them

Shoulder problems are usual among athletes and fit people. That is why, in this article we'll help you to identify the most common shoulder pains and explain how to avoid them. 
Common Shoulder Problems and How to Prevent Them

Last update: 24 December, 2018

Shoulder problems are common among athletes. This is a complex part of the body, therefore it can cause discomfort and negatively impact your daily routine, given that these injuries can easily get worse with movement.

Certainly, shoulder  pain and injury may make simple movements more difficult and uncomfortable. Plus, keep in mind that these injuries may be acute or chronic depending on whether or not they’re diagnosed early and the duration of the pain or disability.

However, most shoulder problems involve muscles, ligaments and tendons, instead of bones. Discomfort can slowly develop through repetitive and intense training routines. Therefore, it’s useful to know about the most common shoulder problems and what to do to avoid them.

Most common shoulder problems

These are the most common shoulder problems among athletes:

1. Tendinitis

The first shoulder problem we’re going to talk about is tendinitis. Tendons are tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect the muscle to the bone. As a result, most cases of tendinitis are an inflammation of the tendon.

The most commonly affected tendons in the shoulders are the four tendons of the rotator cuff and one of the bicep tendons.

2. Bursitis

Bursae are small sacs filled with liquid, located in all the joints of the body, including the shoulder. They act as cushions between the bones and soft tissues around them and help reduce friction between muscles and bones. 

Pain in the shoulder due to bursitis.

Sometimes, excessive movements of the shoulder cause inflammation and swelling of the bursa located between the rotator cuff and the scapula. As a consequence, subacromial bursitis develops, which is a common condition that involves shoulder pain.

3. Shoulder instability

Shoulder instability occurs when the head of the superior part of the arm pulls out of the joint. This can happen due to a sudden injury or intense activity using the shoulder.

Dislocations of the shoulder can certainly be partial when the ball of the upper arm bone partly comes out of the socket of the shoulder. This is called subluxation. A complete dislocation means that the ball comes out entirely from the socket.

Once that ligaments, tendons, and muscles around the shoulder loosen or tear, dislocations occur repeatedly. Recurrent dislocations, partial or complete, cause pain and instability when raising the arms. Repeated episodes of subluxations and dislocations lead to a greater risk of developing arthritis in the joint.

“It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.”

-Vince Lombardi-

4. Rotator cuff tear

Separation and tear of the tendons can be the result of acute injury or degenerative changes in tendons due to age, excessive long-term use, erosion or sudden injury. These tears can be a partial separation of the tendon from the bone. 

In the majority of total tears, the tendon separates from the bone. Rotator cuff and bicep tears are among the most common shoulder problems. 

5. Frozen shoulder

This condition limits the movements of the joint. It causes the accumulation of abnormal tissue bands in the joint that affect free movement of the shoulder.

Shoulders can “freeze” due to pain or surgery preventing the patient from regularly moving them, leading to the accumulation of adhesions.

Shoulder injury.

6. Arthritis

Arthritis happens when the smooth surface of cartilage around the bones of the shoulder joint, suffer from severe erosion.

The most common cause of this disorder is excessive use of the jointTreatments for arthritis on the shoulder depend on how strong the pain is.

However, in these cases specialists recommend getting rest, taking anti-inflammatory medication and cortisone injections. In some cases, a joint replacement may be necessary.

How to avoid shoulder problems

The first step to prevent shoulder injury is using adequate equipment when doing an intense activity. Shoulder pads, for instance. Make sure to use the proper protection before every workout.

Another preventive measure is to practice adequate tackling and blocking techniques. You should also follow a strengthening and conditioning program to help strengthen the shoulder, to make it more flexible and less vulnerable to injury.

But, don’t forget to listen to your own body. If your shoulder is hurting after any activity, don’t just ignore it. If you believe the pain is severe and doesn’t go away, go to your doctor.

Lastly, we recommend you properly prepare for every workout, which means that you must warm up before and cool down after. So, start your training slowly and progressively increase intensity.

Most shoulder problems are the result of intense sports, tiring exercises or from carrying of heavy objects. Therefore, you must pay special attention as you perform these activities. 


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.