Ugh: Your shoulder hurts. Maybe it’s throbbing after a long day hunched on a keyboard, maybe you tried a new yoga pose you weren't exactly ready for, maybe you slept funny — or maybe it just started aching for no apparent reason. The shoulder is a complex thing, and understanding exactly why it hurts can help you make the right tweaks to feel better.
For starters, your shoulder isn't just one joint. “There are a number of different joints that work together to provide the movement of the shoulder, so the shoulder is susceptible to stress,” says Allen Chen
, MD, MPH, FFAPMR at ColumbiaDoctors Midtown and Assistant Clinical Professor of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. Your shoulder is also the most mobile joint in your body, and all that movement comes at the cost of injury-preventing stability, and can come along with inflammation and pain, Chen adds.
Unless you recently had an accident that tore tendons (if you did, work with your physical therapist to learn exercises that can safely heal and strengthen your shoulder), the root of your shoulder issues is probably that the muscles and tendons around your shoulder are too weak, or because you're too flexible, Chen says. “The key is to focus on strengthening those rotator cuff muscles; they’re important for keeping that shoulder in place,” Dr. Chen says.
We talked to doctors and experts to figure out the most common reasons and habits that could be causing shoulder pain, and found easy ways you can start to fix it. It's worth remembering: Pain isn't something you should just live with — there's definitely a difference between normal soreness (like from a great workout) and actual pain. So please do see a medical professional if you're in pain. That said, while we can't diagnose your injury over the Internet (sorry!), it is helpful to know what might be making you ache.