5 Reasons Why You May Have a Stiff or Painful Shoulder

Overhead activities like throwing a baseball are difficult. Elevating your arm to put on a sweater is a challenge. Your arm feels weak. Do these symptoms sound familiar? If so, you may have a shoulder condition that makes arm movement difficult and/or painful.

Many acute shoulder injuries can be managed at home until symptoms are relieved.
Treating Acute Sports and Exercise Injuries in the First 24 to 72 Hours

Read about five shoulder conditions and injuries that may be causing you limited mobility in your shoulder:

1. Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) is a shoulder condition marked by shoulder stiffness, pain, and reduced range of motion. You may stop moving your arm to prevent pain, but doing so can result in more shoulder stiffness. Typically, you’ll have a reduced range of motion during the early phase of this condition, but shoulder movement improves over time.

See Diagnosing Frozen Shoulder


2. SLAP tear, a tear to a piece of cartilage that rings your shoulder socket, usually causes deep shoulder pain and reduced range of motion. Overhead movements, like throwing a baseball or lifting weights, are generally difficult and painful. As a result, you may notice a decline in your sports performance.

See SLAP Tear Symptoms

3. Subacromial bursitis can cause shoulder pain with overhead activities, like throwing a baseball.1 Even reaching backward with your arm to put on a coat can be difficult. Subacromial bursitis can occur when a bursa—a sac of lubricating liquid in your shoulder—becomes inflamed.

Read What Is Shoulder (Subacromial) Bursitis? on Arthritis-health.com

4. Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints throughout your body, causing stiffness and pain. Range of motion movements are difficult if you have arthritis, such as reaching for a can of soup in a cabinet. Examples of shoulder arthritis include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Read more about Osteoarthritis on Arthritis-health.com

5. Rotator cuff tears that occur from overuse can result in arm weakness and pain in your upper arm.2 Pain may strike when you’re reaching overhead for an item high on a bedroom shelf, for example, or when you raise your arm to your side.2 Eventually, pain also occurs when at rest and during sleep.

See How Do Rotator Cuff Injuries Occur?

Some people may have a stiff shoulder after working out or sleeping in an awkward position.

Symptoms of various shoulder conditions overlap, which can make a diagnosis difficult. You'll probably have a medical and physical examination in order to diagnose your shoulder injury. Your physician may also ask you to have imaging tests, such as an x-ray or MRI to confirm the diagnosis. Getting the right diagnosis is critical in order to accurately treat your shoulder injury.

Learn more:

SLAP Tear Shoulder Injury and Treatment

Rotator Cuff Injuries