Shoulder Problems

Shoulder injuries, arthritis and inflammation in and around joints are common problems in adults, often causing severe pain, discomfort and immobility. Follow this chart to help you talk to your doctor about your shoulder problem.

Our trusted Symptom Checker is written and reviewed by physicians and patient education professionals. Find a possible diagnosis by choosing a symptom and answering a few simple questions.

Remember, be sure to consult with you doctor if you feel you have a serious medical problem.

Step 2

Answering Questions

  • Did you hit, injure or fall on your upper arm or shoulder recently?

  • Did you feel your shoulder pop out of place and/or pop back into place?

  • Is your upper arm swollen or misshaped?

  • Is your collarbone tender, or do you have a bump on it?

  • Is there tenderness or pain near the shoulder-end of your collarbone, and does lifting your arm with your uninjured arm help the pain?

  • Does pain come with a twisting motion of your arm, or does a throwing motion cause pain, and does your shoulder seem weak?

  • Do you have a fever?

  • Do you have redness or swelling around your shoulder?

  • Within the last month have you had a sore throat or a skin infection?

  • Do you have redness and swelling in more than one joint, including your shoulder?

  • Do you feel pain when you move your shoulder but there’s no swelling or redness?

  • Do you have increasing stiffness and inability to move your shoulder?

Step 3

Possible Causes

  • Diagnosis

    Your SHOULDER may be or may have been DISLOCATED.


    Self Care

    See your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    Your HUMERUS (upper arm bone) may be FRACTURED.


    Self Care

    EMERGENCY
    Call your doctor or go to the emergency room right away.


  • Diagnosis

    Your CLAVICLE (collarbone) may be FRACTURED.


    Self Care

    Call your doctor right away. Use a sling to restrict movement of your arm and use an analgesic, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to relieve pain until you see your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    Your SHOULDER may be SEPARATED.


    Self Care

    Call your doctor right away. Use a sling to restrict movement of your arm and use an analgesic, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to relieve pain until you see your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have a TORN ROTATOR CUFF or SHOULDER INSTABILITY.


    Self Care

    See your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have INFLAMMATION in or around a joint, also called BURSITIS, or a serious INFECTION of the bone, the joint or the skin.


    Self Care

    URGENT
    See your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    These symptoms may be from RHEUMATIC FEVER, a reaction to a strep infection.


    Self Care

    URGENT
    See your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis


    Self Care

    URGENT
    See your doctor right away.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS, a disease affecting the immune system, or GOUT, an inflammation of the shoulder joint.


    Self Care

    See your doctor. Apply heat to the affected area and take an anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen, for pain.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have BURSITIS or ROTATOR CUFF SYNDROME.


    Self Care

    Use an anti-inflammatory medicine, such as ibuprofen, and apply heat to the affected area. If your symptoms do not improve, see your doctor.


  • Diagnosis

    You may have ADHESIVE CAPSULITIS, also called a FROZEN SHOULDER.


    Self Care

    See your doctor. This condition is usually treated with special exercises you can do on your own.


  • Diagnosis


    Self Care

    See your doctor. This condition is usually treated with special exercises you can do on your own.