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Causes of Right Shoulder and Arm Discomfort

There are numerous reasons that an individual might experience discomfort in their right shoulder and arm. In many cases, the pain will occur as a result of muscle overuse or injury. Pain can also arise from damage to the nerves in that area.

Shoulder pain is the third leading muscle mass and bone complaint in the United States. Scientists estimate that shoulder injuries account for 4.5 million doctor visits and $3 billion in healthcare costs in the U.S.

In some cases, shoulder and arm pain have nothing to do with exercise or injury. Unexplained shoulder and arm pain can sometimes be a sign and symptom of cardiovascular disease.


swimmer's shoulder

Swimmer's shoulder

Swimmer's shoulder is a possible cause of pain in the right arm and also the shoulder.

Swimmer's shoulder describes a different shoulder injury that might occur as a result of swimming. Swimmers are at increased threat of shoulder injuries due to the high number of swim stroke repetitions during training.

Injuries associated with swimmer's shoulder include:

Impingement syndrome: A tendon in the shoulder rubs and catches on surrounding tissues when they lift their arm.

Labral injuries: A tear in a piece of cartilage called the labrum, which rests inside the shoulder socket.

Shoulder instability: The shoulder joint structures are ineffective in keeping the upper arm bone in the shoulder socket.

Peripheral neuropathy: Damage to one of the peripheral nerves, which generally causes numbness or weakness.

Appropriate treatment of the swimmer's shoulder can help to speed up recovery time. A sports doctor will recommend various treatments depending on the injury. These may consist of:

  • rest, ice, and compression
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
  • Cortisone shots right into the shoulder.
  • Surgical procedure.



Rotator cuff tendonitis

Rotator cuff tendonitis

A rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround and support the shoulder joint. Together, they assist in holding the upper arm bone firmly in the shoulder socket.

Rotator cuff tendonitis (RCT) refers to irritation or inflammation of the rotator cuff. This condition is common among elite professional athletes and people who regularly play certain sports.

Some reasons for RCT include:

  • poor overhead throwing technique in sports such as baseball and javelin
  • direct trauma to the rotator cuff
  • falling on a straight arm

To identify RCT, a medical professional will take a full medical history. This will likely include questions about the following:

  • whether the person is right- or left-handed
  • current or previous participation in sports
  • work history
  • history of injury to the shoulder
  • relevant surgical history

A doctor will also perform a physical exam of the shoulder, spinal column, and neck. Sometimes, a doctor may request medical imaging tests, such as:

  • radiographs
  • ultrasound
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

A doctor will usually suggest that an individual with RCT relaxes the shoulder to aid recovery. They may also suggest the following treatments:

  • anti-inflammatory medications
  • cortisone injections into the rotator cuff
  • surgery to repair RCT




Overuse can create damage and inflammation to the muscles in the arm and shoulder. Muscle overuse can cause muscle discomfort and fatigue, yet a person might not experience these symptoms until straining the muscle mass.

A 2018 evaluation suggests that massage treatment may be the most effective treatment for fatigued muscles.

Other strategies that might ease muscular tissue inflammation and tiredness consist of compression garments and cold water immersion.



disuse syndrome

Disuse syndrome

Disuse syndrome is a general term for problems that result from a duration of immobility or physical inactivity. It typically involves muscle atrophy or wasting.

Individuals who have recently undergone a period of bed rest are at particular risk of developing disuse syndrome.

An individual may experience the following symptoms even after a short period of physical inactivity:

  • muscle stiffness
  • muscle shrinkage and wasting
  • muscles that are weak and susceptible to injury

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults perform at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.

Nonetheless, some individuals have chronic conditions that limit their mobility or physical activity levels. Individuals who have these problems need to speak with a physical therapist. They will work with the individual to develop an ideal exercise program.



Brachial neuritis

Brachial neuritis

Brachial neuritis is a type of peripheral neuropathy that affects the following parts of the body:

  • chest
  • shoulder
  • arm
  • hand

Peripheral neuropathy is a disease of the nerves which transmit signals between the central nervous system and other parts of the body. Nerve pain and a loss of function in affected body parts characterize the condition.

Usually, people with brachial neuritis experience pain and weakness in the shoulder and arm on one side of their body. Most of the time, this is their dominant side.

Most people will experience pain on the outside part of the shoulder. It generally comes on suddenly and may worsen at night.

After a few days, the pain may disappear. A person may then experience the following symptoms in their shoulder and arm:

  • weakness
  • changes in reflexes
  • loss of sensation

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Infections are common root causes of brachial neuritis. The infections may be bacterial, viral, or parasitic. Instances include:

  • mumps
  • parvovirus B19
  • Coxsackie B virus
  • HIV
  • variola major and minor

To make an accurate medical diagnosis, a doctor will take a complete medical history. 

It will include inquiries about the following:

  • recent surgery
  • recently prescribed medications, such as antivirals, antiepileptics, and botulinum toxin
  • previous infections
  • whether the person has received vaccines for influenza and tetanus

An electromyography test, which records electric activity in muscular tissues and nerves, is essential for diagnosing brachial neuritis. A doctor might order clinical imaging tests to rule out muscle and also bone disorders.

Brachial neuritis usually resolves by itself. In the meantime, doctors may prescribe discomfort medicines, such as:

  • anti-inflammatories
  • nerve pain medications.

Once the pain subsides, some people may benefit from specific stretches and strength exercises.



Heart Problems

Heart Problems

Lots of people associate a heart attack with discomfort in the left arm. However, some people may feel pain in the right shoulder and arm or on both sides of the body.

Anyone who experiences inexplicable arm and shoulder pain and any one of the following signs should call 911 right away.

  • chest pain or discomfort, which may feel like pressure, burning, tightness, or sharpness
  • pain radiating to the jaw on one or both sides
  • shortness of breath
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • dizziness
  • a rapid heartbeat
  • excessive sweating

Some people have coronary heart disease, which may cause them to experience episodes of angina. Angina is chest pain triggered by a temporary reduction in blood circulation to the heart. The symptoms can be similar to those of a heart attack.

Aspirin and nitroglycerin sublingual spray can temporarily promote blood circulation and relieve angina. However, if symptoms persist, a person should seek emergency medical treatment. They could be having a heart attack.


When to see a doctor

An individual who suspects they have a heart attack needs to seek emergency medical interest.

People with angina may have trouble differentiating a heart attack from an episode of angina. If signs and symptoms persist after therapy with pain killers or nitroglycerin sublingual spray, emergency treatment is necessary.

Sports injuries, such as a swimmer's shoulder and RCT, may require medical attention if rest and ice do not alleviate symptoms. A doctor might prescribe pain relief and may refer the person to a physiotherapist for further treatment.

Individuals with brachial neuritis might consult their doctor for a diagnosis and discomfort relief. However, there are few other therapy alternatives available. The condition typically resolves on its own.


Brief Summary

Discomfort in the right shoulder and arm is often due to muscle or tendon damage. It can also occur as a result of damage to the peripheral nerves in those areas.

Unexplained shoulder and arm pain can sometimes be a warning sign of a heart attack. A heart attack is a medical emergency.

People should see a doctor if they are worried about the pain in the right shoulder and arm. The doctor will work to diagnose the underlying issue and provide appropriate treatment.

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