What Are the Causes of Right Shoulder Pain?

There are numerous causes of right shoulder pain. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health or NIH, swelling, inflammation or tearing of the tissue surrounding the shoulder joint can cause shoulder pain and reduce the shoulder's active range of motion. The NIH reports that shoulder pain can be caused by repetitive overuse, traumatic injury or a medical condition. Many shoulder conditions can cause pain to manifest in one or both shoulders.

Shoulder pain can come from overuse, injury or a medical condition. Credit: Dirima/iStock/Getty Images


Whiplash can cause right shoulder pain. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or NINDS, which is a division of the National Institutes of Health, whiplash is a soft tissue injury of the neck that occurs when the neck is rapidly flexed and extended. Whiplash is also known as a neck sprain or neck strain, and is characterized by a group of symptoms that manifest shortly after the neck injury. The NINDS notes that common signs and symptoms associated with whiplash include: neck pain immediately after the injury or within a few days, neck stiffness, cervical spine ligament sprains, headaches, dizziness, unusual burning or tingling sensations, back pain and shoulder pain. In some cases, a person who has suffered a whiplash injury will experience memory loss, blurred vision, an inability to concentrate, nervousness and irritability, sleep difficulties, fatigue or depression.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic outlet syndrome can cause right shoulder pain. The Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma, a New York-based sports medicine research, training and clinical center, reveals that thoracic outlet syndrome is a group of syndromes caused by compression of the nerves and blood vessels running through the neck and shoulder. Nerves and blood vessels, which run together in a nuerovascular bundle or sheath, can be compressed by bony, ligamentous or muscular structures between the neck and armpit, causing shoulder pain or discomfort and unusual sensations in the arm on the affected side. Common signs and symptoms associated with thoracic outlet syndrome include weakness and muscle loss or atrophy in the small muscles of the hand, swelling or puffiness in the arm or hand, numbness, tingling and discomfort in the neck, shoulder, arm and hand, and a blue discoloration of the hand on the affected side.

Shoulder Dislocation

A shoulder dislocation can cause right shoulder pain. According to the Sports Injury Clinic website, shoulder dislocations are one of the most common traumatic injuries among athletes in a wide range of sports. The majority of shoulder dislocations involve a forward slippage of the head of the humerus or upper arm bone when the arm is externally rotated or turned outward and abducted or lifted to the side of the body. This is called an anterior shoulder dislocation. The Sports Injury Clinic website states that 95 percent of shoulder dislocations occur in the anterior or forward direction. Common signs and symptoms associated with anterior shoulder dislocation include severe pain in the affected shoulder, loss of normal shoulder contour, an inability or unwillingness of the injured person to lift her arm away from her body, and numbness, tingling or discoloration in the arm, forearm or hand.

Overuse and Muscle Strain

Pain can occur if you overuse your right shoulder when you exercise or do a sporting activity. Shoulder pain and injuries are common in sports such as baseball, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball. Shoulder pain stems from muscular imbalances in the shoulder, rotator cuff, and upper back. If you are right-handed and dominantly use that arm to throw a ball, for example, you'll overuse those muscles to the point where you feel pain or muscle strain.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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