Diseases of the Shoulder | UnityPoint Health - Meriter

ER - Madison

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UnityPoint Health - Madison

Diseases of the Shoulder

Pain is a common symptom for almost all shoulder problems. The pain is often a dull aching pain, which is worsened with activity. Weakness is another common problem for people who have shoulder problems. Lifting the arm overhead commonly produces both pain and weakness.

If you have shoulder pain, some common causes may include:

Bursitis/Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

Shoulder bursitis and rotator cuff tendonitis are ways of saying that there is an inflammation of a particular area within the shoulder joint. This occurs when there is inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons and the bursa that surrounds these tendons. In most cases of Bursitis and Rotator Cuff Tendonitis there are combinations of these problems.


Often there is an initial injury that sets off the process of inflammation which means the problem can be self-exacerbating. Once there is an initial injury, the tendons and bursa become inflamed. This inflammation causes a thickening of these structures. The thickening then takes up more space, and therefore the tendons and bursa become are pinched upon even more. This causes more inflammation, and more thickening of the tendons and bursa, and so on.


The first and most common symptom of Bursitis is pain with overhead activities as in anything arm and above head height. The pain can also be over the outside of the shoulder/upper arm making it very difficult to do your daily activities. This could also intensify to the point of causing pain while sleeping at night.

Shoulder Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of shoulder arthritis. Also called wear-and-tear arthritis or degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis is characterized by progressive wearing away of the cartilage of the joint. As the protective cartilage surface of the joint is worn away by shoulder arthritis, bare bone is exposed within the shoulder.


Shoulder arthritis symptoms tend to progress as the condition worsens and does not always progress steadily with time. Often patients report good months and bad months, or symptom changes associated with weather changes. The most common symptoms of shoulder arthritis are:

  • Pain with activities
  • Limited range of motion
  • Stiffness of the shoulder
  • Swelling of the joint
  • Tenderness around the joint
  • A feeling of grinding or catching within the joint


Treatment of shoulder arthritis should begin with the most basic steps, and progress to the more involved, possibly including surgery. Not all treatments are appropriate in every patient, and you should have a discussion with your doctor to determine which treatments are appropriate for your symptoms.