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Right shoulder pain

You won’t always experience shoulder pain in both shoulders at the same time. Some people suffer with left shoulder pain, while others suffer with right shoulder pain. We cover everything you need to know about right shoulder pain, including causes, diagnosis and effective treatment options.

Which parts of your body can be affected by shoulder pain?

Shoulder pain can vary from person to person. If you have persistent pain and stiffness in your shoulder, the NHS states it could point to arthritis or a frozen shoulder. However, if your shoulder pain worsens when you are using your arm or shoulder, you could have shoulder bursitis or a shoulder impingement. Pain in the upper part of your shoulder can be caused by a shoulder dislocation or torn ligaments in your shoulder. We share the common causes of pain in the right-side of your shoulder and how a specialist can help diagnose and treat your shoulder pain. 

Your right and left shoulder mostly always have matching anatomical structures.

There may be slight variations between the two, but the basic genetic makeup and function of your right shoulder and left shoulder is equal.

However, some people will develop right shoulder pain, and others will develop left shoulder pain. Why is this?

Are you left-handed or right-handed?

Studies show that the majority of people across the world are right-handed — a staggering 90%.

This means that around nine out of 10 people will use their right hand for everyday actions such as throwing a ball, writing and brushing their teeth. Over time, using your right hand more often than your left hand might cause right shoulder pain. This could be due to increased wear and tear in your joint, or overuse of your muscles or tendons.

Similarly, if you’re left-handed, you may develop left shoulder pain for similar reasons.

  • Trauma or injury: If you play a contact sport, a hard blow to your right shoulder could cause a number of painful conditions, including: bursitis, fracture, bruising or dislocation. 
  • Overuse: If you do a lot of overhead movements in everyday life, you might aggravate your rotator cuff (the group of muscles that surround your shoulder joint). This can lead to pain and stiffness.
  • “Wear and tear”: As we get older, our joints naturally become more worn. Some conditions, like osteoarthritis, accelerate this natural process. Osteoarthritis can occur in either shoulder, but you may experience pain in one shoulder before it affects your other side. Osteoarthritis causes swelling, pain, tenderness and stiffness in your joints.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body attacks the cells that line your joints by mistake. This causes swelling, inflammation and pain in your joints. This might include your right shoulder.

Any unexpected or long-term right shoulder pain should be checked by your doctor. Correct treatment depends upon an accurate diagnosis.

When you meet with your doctor, they’ll discuss your right shoulder pain, including:

  • When it started (if known);
  • Whether anything specific caused it;
  • Where the pain is located;
  • Whether any specific movements or arm positions make it worse,
  • And whether you have pain anywhere else (for example, in your arm or upper back).

Your doctor will perform a physical examination to diagnose right shoulder pain. This will help your doctor identify any specific weakness, instability or lack of mobility in your shoulder.

Many shoulder problems can be diagnosed by assessing your clinical history and through physical examination alone.

Treating right shoulder pain will ordinarily involve non-surgical (conservative) or surgical options.

Non-surgical treatment is generally used first, unless surgery is urgently needed.

Depending on your diagnosis, non-surgical treatments for right shoulder pain may include:

  • Pain relief medication: Paracetamol or anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen could ease your pain. You could even use an ibuprofen gel on your affected area. Before taking medication, you should speak with your doctor.
  • Rest: Sometimes, right shoulder pain is caused by overuse. By resting as much as possible, you might find that your pain eases. If it doesn’t, you should consider other treatment options.
  • Physiotherapy: A physiotherapist will teach you specialist right shoulder pain exercises to strengthen your muscles, helping reduce your pain and improve mobility.
  • Hydrocortisone (steroid) injection: The hydrocortisone (steroid) injection is injected into your affected joint. This reduces pain and swelling. It also improves mobility and function. The hydrocortisone injection can improve joint pain for months at a time.
  • Surgery: Arthroscopy is a type of keyhole surgery used to treat several forms of joint pain. It is minimally invasive.

Your doctor will be able to talk you through the details of any of these treatment options.

Whether you need advice on pain relief medication, physiotherapy, a cortisone injection into your shoulder, or keyhole (arthroscopic) surgery — we can help.

Book an appointment with a specialist shoulder Consultant online today.