SYMPTOMS - Shoulder

The following are symptoms (complaints) that people with should problems typically report.


Pain is a common symptom for almost all shoulder problems. In our experience, most middle aged people who have pain have problems with their rotator cuff. The pain is often a dull aching pain, which is worsened with activity. Lifting the arm overhead commonly produces pain (for example, putting the dishes in the cupboards). Sleeping on the shoulder at night is another position that causes pain in people with rotator cuff problems. Pain in an older person (over 50 years old usually), can sometimes be caused by shoulder arthritis. This is especially true if the person has had a previous history of severe trauma to the shoulder.


Weakness is another common problem for people who have rotator cuff problems. Sometimes weakness is just secondary to pain, other times it is because the rotator cuff muscle has begun to tear. The weakness is usually worst when trying to lift the arm over your head.

Popping or Clicking

Popping or clicking in the shoulder can be related to many causes. Sometimes it is caused by a cartilage tear or rotator cuff tear that is rubbing within the joint. Other times, it can be due to subtle instability, or the shoulder is coming in and out of socket.


Stiffness can be caused by many problems in the shoulder. Often, pain from a rotator cuff injury will force you to stop using your shoulder; then the shoulder gets stiff because of a build up of scar tissue. This is often called a frozen shoulder. Other times, stiffness can be caused by arthritis of the shoulder. Sometimes, especially in diabetics, shoulder stiffness can set in for no reason. This is called adhesive capsulitis.


Looseness is often a sign of shoulder instability. That is, if you feel your shoulder is coming in and out of the socket, or especially if you have dislocations and need to go to the ER to get the shoulder put back in place, then you have shoulder instability by definition.

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