Shoulder Pain

The shoulder girdle is a complex arrangement of ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and muscles that connect the neck, chest and arm. It gives strength and range of motion to the arm. 

As we get older, shoulder pain can become a problem, especially after 60. This is because the tendons and muscles begin to degenerate. Shoulder pain can be very frustrating, limiting your movements and making everyday activities harder.


There could be many reasons why you have shoulder pain. You may have been injured in an accident, have inflammation from playing sports or keeping active, be experiencing age-related degeneration, or your neck or shoulder nerves might be irritated. A large number of tendons and ligaments make up the shoulder girdle. This means that even if just one small muscle or tendon is in trouble, you can suffer terrible shoulder pain.


Physical injury: Certain sports or a simple fall can cause trauma, chronic shoulder pain, or dislocation. If you’ve been injured and can see visible disfiguration of your shoulder, such as a bulge or exposed tissue, get help immediately and don’t try to put it back into place yourself.

Rotator cuff: Shoulders get their range of motion from the rotator cuff. This series of tendons surrounds the shoulder to keep the upper arm bone in place. The most common cause of shoulder pain is rotator cuff inflammation. This can result from repetitive motion, manual labour or sleeping in the same position on your shoulder each night. When this happens, you’ll find lifting your arm particularly difficult.

Arthritis: As we age, muscles and joints deteriorate. Shoulder arthritis occurs when there is damage to the cartilage inside or on top of the shoulder joint. When this happens, the ball-and-socket mechanism loses its ability to act as a smooth, gliding surface for shoulder rotation and movement. Symptoms from shoulder pain caused by arthritis vary greatly depending on the amount of damage you have.

Cervical Spine: The nerves in the neck directly influence the shoulder, so pain from these nerves can make its way to the shoulder. If these nerves cause your shoulder pain, you might feel numb or have pins and needles, which are unrelated to movement in your shoulder. 


In most cases, shoulder pain is mild and can be treated at home. Apply ice wrapped in cloth four times a day, for 15 minutes at a time, for a few days to reduce inflammation and soothe the pain. You can also take Ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and swelling. You can slowly return to your normal routine as your shoulder pain eases. 

Managing shoulder pain at home is simple, but if it persists after a few days, get in touch with us, and we can help.

To find out exactly what’s wrong, our specialists will ask you a series of questions relating to your lifestyle and perform a detailed physical exam. To establish a precise diagnosis, you may also need to have some scans, such as X-rays, CT, or MRI. Once we know what’s causing your shoulder pain, you might be treated with physio, medications, or in rare cases, surgery.

Sudden shoulder pain with no immediate trauma source might signify a heart attack. In cases of sudden and severe shoulder pain, please call 999 straight away. 

Get in touch

To ask a question about shoulder pain or to book an appointment, get in touch with our team Monday-Friday, 8am – 6pm, or Saturday 9am – 2pm, on 020 7806 4004 or email shoulderunit@hje.org.uk

If you’re paying for yourself, you don’t need a referral from your GP. Simply book an appointment!

If you have insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa, Aviva), contact your insurer to get treatment authorisation. In most cases, you’ll also need a referral letter from your GP.

If you don’t have a GP, you can use our private GP practice.

orthopaedics clinic

Shoulder Clinic

With a team of experts, our London-based Shoulder Unit offers diagnosis and treatment of injuries and musculoskeletal conditions affecting the shoulder. Our state-of-the-art facilities include operating theatres, physiotherapy and imaging.

A patient speaking to a receptionist

Patient information

Our Hospital is renowned for providing exemplary levels of care across more than 90 services. From orthopaedics, to urology, our private GP practice and Urgent Care Clinic, our services are led by some of London’s leading Consultants. For more information, and to find a service suitable for your care, find out more about the services that we offer.

Make an enquiry

If you have any questions relating to treatment options or pricing information, get in touch with us by filling out one of our contact boxes or giving us a call on 020 7806 4004.

Our Appointments Team have a dedicated and caring approach to finding you the earliest appointment possible with the best specialist.

If you are self-paying you don’t need a referral from your GP for a consultation. You can simply refer yourself* and book an appointment.

If you have health insurance (e.g. Bupa, Axa Health, Aviva), you will need to contact your insurer to get authorisation before any treatment, and in most cases you will also require a referral letter from your GP.

If you are not registered with a GP, we have an in-house private GP practice you can use. Alternatively, we can suggest the most appropriate course of action for you to take, given your location and individual circumstances.

*Please note – for investigations such as X-rays and MRIs, a referral will be required. However, we may be able to arrange this for you through our on-site private GP.

    Make an enquiry

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