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Shoulder Shrug Pain

author image Marisa Upson
Marisa Upson has been writing health-related articles since 1990. Her knowledge comes from 23 years in the health care field as a chiropractor and owner of a holistic retreat. Upson holds a Bachelor of Science in human physiology and a Doctor of Chiropractic from Southern California University of Health Sciences.
Shoulder Shrug Pain
Woman with shoulder pain. Photo Credit: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

You shrug your shoulders and a sharp pain radiates from the shoulder joint to the surrounding muscles. Possible causes can range from a mild muscle tear to a nerve impingement. The location and quality of the pain you’re experiencing will help reveal the underlying cause. If pain persists or worsens, it is always best to see a qualified shoulder joint specialist such as an orthopedic doctor or a certified sports injury practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment protocol.

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Muscles in Overdrive

Your body was designed to hunt and gather, not sit in front of a computer for nine hours a day with elbows bent and shoulders tense. Add bad posture to this scenario and you have set yourself up for a repetitive muscle strain caused by your upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles working overtime. A similar situation occurs when you carry a heavy purse or backpack on one side of your body, causing one shoulder to raise higher than the other in an attempt to keep the carried object from falling off. This type of injury usually feels like a dull pain that increases upon movement.

Up and Over, Ouch!

Your rotator cuff is made up of four muscles and the tendons that attach these muscles to bones. These muscles are designed to move and support your shoulder joint. Once again, injury to these muscles can be caused by chronic overuse that occurs with repetitive movements such as painting or throwing a ball. Injury to the rotator cuff may also result from a direct blow or using your arm to break a fall. The pain associated with this type of injury is described as a deep ache felt on the outside or front of your shoulder. Range of motion is usually limited.

On My Nerves

The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that travels from the spinal cord through the shoulder to the arms and hands. These nerves may be either torn or stretched, causing minor to severe shoulder pain that increases upon movement and sends a sharp, pins and needles like pain down your arm. These types of injuries often occur during contact sports such as football or wrestling. Another primary cause is automobile or motorcycle accidents.

Balancing Act

The recurring themes that apply to this type of pain and its possible causes are overuse, repetitive movements and direct trauma. Bring balance to your life by taking breaks during work or play, listening to your body and responding to its needs instead of driving full steam ahead -- and take time out to stretch and move. Allowing yourself a five-minute hiatus every hour in which you interlace your fingers and raise your hands over your head while sitting at the computer takes little effort, but goes a long way in restoring health to your muscles and joints.

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