If you have injured the shoulder recently or have been doing repetitive heavy lifting above head height or other activity involving shoulder movements then it is likely that you have damaged your rotator cuff tendon/s. The powerful rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder are attached to the bones of the upper arm by tendons which can become damaged or torn. This problem is also commonly associated with subacromial bursitis which is the result of an inflamed fluid filled sack which lies over these tendons. The treatment for rotator cuff injuries includes relative rest, physiotherapy, injection therapy and sometimes surgery as a last resort.
If there is no history of any injury to the shoulder then it is possible you may have a condition called 'adhesive capsulitis' - more commonly known as a 'frozen shoulder'. The cause for this is not known although it occurs more commonly amongst diabetics. The treatment for a frozen shoulder includes injection therapy and physiotherapy but this is only likely to reduce the severity of the problem if administered in the early weeks following onset. Even with treatment a frozen shoulder tends to run its own course and can persist for up to 18 months to two years before settling. Those who are greatly debilitated by the lack of movement and pain might benefit from an orthopaedic procedures called 'manipulation under anaesthetic' or laparoscopic surgery.
I would recommend you see a physiotherapist or musculoskeletal doctor who will be able to get a good idea of the problem through physical examination.
Answered by Dr Alasdair Wright.
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