12 Causes of Right Arm and Shoulder Pain

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What is Right Arm and Shoulder Pain?

The severity of pain depends on the amount of physical damage sustained by the shoulder and whether it is affected by certain shoulder diseases. Right arm and shoulder pain can also be related to heart, nerve damage, and inflammation.

The most frequent causes of right arm and shoulder pain usually include rotator cuff issues such as tendonitis, bursitis, and rotator cuff tear.
Despite many possible causes of the pain, some right arm and shoulder issues can be quickly diagnosedTrusted Source. For instance, the tennis elbow and the carpal tunnel affect only certain limb regions, making them easy to detect.
For more information about the causes, go to the “What are the causes of the right arm and shoulder pain?” paragraph to find which shoulder issue describes your problem most accurately.

What are the characteristics of the right arm and shoulder pain?

The shoulderTrusted Source is an anatomical structure that consists of many different components. To start off, it is composed of three bones:

It has two joints, the glenohumeral joint and the acromioclavicular joint. The glenohumeral joint is the meeting point of the ball (humeral head) and the socket (glenoid). The acromioclavicular joint is where the two other shoulder parts meet: the scapula which is part of a shoulder blade, the acromion, and the collar bone, known as the clavicle.

Other parts of the shoulder also include:

The above shoulder components can be damaged or affected by various conditions. Because of their anatomical complexity, right arm pain varies from person to person. The following types of pain may occur:

Depending on the condition, the right arm pain may get worse with time or get better without treatment. The severity of pain is also tied to underlying causes of the right arm pain. In some cases, everyday activities may be difficult because the pain can be triggered by certain movements.

What is the difference between left and right arm pain?

Although there is an overlap between the causes of right and left arm pain, issues related to the left arm are usually more concerning.

Pain in the left arm may be tied to heart issues. Apart from pain in the upper left chest, shortness of breath, nausea, and sweating, the heart pain is often accompanied by the left arm pain.

When it comes to pain in the right arm, the heart is usually not involved. It is a much less alarming issue than the pain in the left arm, which is closer to the heart.

What are the causes of the right arm and shoulder pain?

The most common conditions causing the right arm and shoulder pain include the following:


Arthritis is a disorder that causes inflammation in and around the joints. It results in aching pain in muscles and joints and can be perceived as pain in the entire right shoulder. Joints affected by arthritis are characterized by poor, restricted movement.

Swimmer's shoulder

Swimmer's shoulder is one of the most frequent injuries of the right shoulder and can occur during intense training. It is primarily related to swimmingTrusted Source but can be caused by any physical activity requiring repetitive arm movements.

There are four types of injuries associated with a swimmer's shoulder:

Frozen shoulder

Another common cause of right arm and shoulder pain is a frozen shoulder. Also known as adhesive capsulitis, it is a condition that develops when the tissue around the shoulder joint thickens and gets tighter.

When the tissue stiffens, it takes up space restricting the joint's movements. It results in pain, stiffness, and swelling.

There is no decisive agreement between researchers as to why frozen shoulder occurs. People who already have certain conditions, including diabetes, thyroid issues, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and heart disease, are more at risk of developing frozen shoulder.

Rotator cuff diseases and injuries

A group of muscles and tendons responsible for keeping the upper arm bone in the socket is called the rotator cuff. Its tissues can be affected in a number of ways, including physical damage, diseases, and inflammation.

Rotator cuff tendonitis

12 Causes of Right Arm and Shoulder Pain: Learn More
Location of rotator cuff tendinitis

When the rotator cuff's tendons get inflamed, it results in a condition known as tendinitis. It can cause the following symptoms:

Shoulder bursitis

Bursa is another part of the shoulder that can get inflamed. It is a fluid-filled sac, which reduces friction between moving parts of the joint. An inflammation of a bursa is called bursitisTrusted Source and results in the following health issues:

The human body consists of more than 150 bursae. Symptoms of bursitis are different depending on which bursae are inflamed. Bursitis, which can cause right arm and shoulder pain, is called olecranon bursitis.

Rotator cuff tear

Tears in the tendons of the rotator cuff are the most common type of tendon damage among adults. Injury to the tendon can be a result of an accident but can also happen naturally due to the aging process.

Symptoms of a torn rotator cuff include muscle weakness, recurrent pain, limited movement of the arm, difficulty reaching behind the back or combing hair, and cracking sound during movements of the arm.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome develops when the main nerve in the right-hand gets damaged. It can happen due to repetitive movements of the wrist over a long period of time. Writing, typing, and other repetitive activities, especially done when hands are positioned lower than wrists, increase the risk of developing this condition.

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include a tingling sensation in the arm, numbness, weakness of the hand, and difficulty holding things.

Cubital tunnel syndrome

The right arm and shoulder pain can also be affected by cubital tunnel syndrome, known as ulnar nerve entrapment. Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve gets damaged, which results in inflammation and swelling.

The ulnar nerve is one of the most significant nerves located in the arm. It passes through the cubital tunnel situated inside the elbow. The pressure on the ulnar nerve can be caused by sustaining a bent position of the elbow for a long period of time.

Symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome include tingling and numbness in the hand, arm, and elbow, pain, and muscle weakness.

Dislocated elbow

A dislocated elbow is a common injury that causes the right arm and shoulder pain. It's painful damage usually caused by car and sports accidents, falls, and improper lifting of heavy objects.

Dislocated elbow happens when the bones of the elbow move out of their correct position. Aside from intense pain, symptoms include the inability to move the joint, tingling, numbness, swelling, and inflammation.

Shoulder overuse

Overusing the arm and shoulder muscles can result in pain in these areas of the body. The overexertion of the muscles can damage them, which usually results in inflammation.

Fatigue and pain caused by shoulder overuse may not appear until several hours after the intense physical activity.

It is not a serious type of injury and can be treated fairly easily with massage therapies, cold water immersion, and compression garments.

12 Causes of Right Arm and Shoulder Pain: Learn More

Shoulder sprain

Any ligaments of the shoulder can be torn or stretched. This type of injury is usually called a sprain and can occur due to sports activity, accidents, and falls.

Damaged ligaments cause pain, swelling, bruises, reduced range of motion, muscle spasms, and weakness. Most of the time, symptoms of the shoulder sprain heal on their own. Severe cases of sprains, which are rare, may require a professional diagnosis.

Shoulder fracture

Another type of shoulder injury is a fracture or broken bone. Several parts of the shoulder can be fractured:

Falls and car accidents can result in a broken collarbone or humerus. The shoulder blade is rarely fractured, an injury that can happen due to high-impact crashes.

Brachial plexus injury

Brachial plexus injury occurs when the nerves of the brachial plexus (network of the nerves that send signals from the spine to hands, shoulders, and arms) are compressed or stretched.

This type of injury can happen during contact sports activities or due to vehicle accidents. Severe cases of brachial plexus injury where the nerves are ripped apart may result in paralysis of the arm.

Brachial neuritis

Brachial neuritis is another neurological condition that can cause right arm and shoulder pain. It occurs when the brachial nerve that controls the shoulder, arm, and hand is inflamed.

Symptoms of brachial neuritis are as follows:

Brachial neuritis is a rare condition that usually develops suddenly. It is believed that it's a type of autoimmune disorder affecting the nerves, but it has yet to be understood why it happens in the first place.

How the right arm and shoulder pain is diagnosed?

Diagnosis of the arm and shoulder issues is based on physical examination and the patient's description of symptoms they experience. Visible symptoms such as swelling and deformities of the shoulder muscles can rule out many possibilities. If there are several injuries and diseases to consider, a doctor may order the following tests:

How to treat the right arm and shoulder pain?

Depending on the severity of symptoms, the right arm and shoulder pain can be resolved with activity changes, medicationTrusted Source, physical therapies, or surgery.

Most of the time, exercises to relieve pain combined with physical therapy sessions are enough to improve mobility and strength of the right arm and shoulder. Taking a lot of rest and avoiding overexerting of affected parts of the body are important steps to speed up the recovery time.

Certain diseases and conditions affecting joints, bursae, tendons, and other parts of the shoulder may require anti-inflammatory medications prescribed by a doctor. In some cases, steroids and injections to cause numbness may also be recommended to overcome the intense pain. Make sure to stick to your doctor's advice and take prescribed medicines as directed.

If activity changes and medications fail to resolve the right arm and shoulder issues, surgery may be the only way to respond to the problem. For instance, rotator cuff tears, frequent dislocations, broken bones, and certain shoulder inflammations may not improve, thanks to exercises and therapies. Surgeries to get rid of the right arm and shoulder pain include shoulder replacement, reconstruction procedures of the shoulder, repair of torn tissues, and removal of scar tissues.


May 15, 2023
10 minutes read

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