Right shoulder & arm pain

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Injury to any of the bones, muscles or nerves in the right shoulder or arm can cause pain. The pain can be described as sharp, dull, achy, acute or chronic. A common injury to the right shoulder and arm is a rotator cuff injury, which affects the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff.

Other injuries include broken bones and tendinitis.

Anatomy of the Shoulder

The shoulder is made up of three main bones: the clavicle, the scapula and the humerus (which is common to the arm as well). There are several muscles, nerves, veins and arteries that travel from the shoulder down the arm. The muscles connect to the bone, which helps the bones move. Tendons in the arm helps attach the muscles and bone.

Anatomy of the Arm

The arm is made up of three main bones: the humerus (upper arm), the radius and the ulna. There are also several muscles, nerves, veins and arteries. There are dozens of muscles, including the deltoid, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis, teres major, serratus anterior, coracobracialis, biceps brachii, triceps brachii, subclavius and brachialis.

Possible Causes

There are many causes of shoulder and arm pain, including hand, wrist, arm or shoulder injury; tendinitis, heart attack (pain typically radiates down the left arm, but has been known to travel down the right arm), fracture, nerve lesions, cellulitis, muscle strain or sprain, osteomyelitis (bone inflammation caused by bacteria) and radiculitis (inflammation of a spinal nerve root).

Right Shoulder and Arm Pain

According to Doctor's Exercise, "pains that occur along the top of the shoulder and radiate into the side of the upper arm into the deltoid muscle, and further down the arm, even into the fingers, may be related to nerve impingement (pinched nerve), which can originate in the neck (cervical spine)." The pain may be described as very intense or sharp on any movement of the arm.

According to Wellsphere, pain from a heart attack is typically felt as chest pain that radiates down the left arm. Right shoulder or arm pain may signal a rotator cuff injury. A rotator cuff, Wellsphere says, is "a muscular sheath that surrounds the head of the arm bone (the humerus) and the entire shoulder joint. The four muscles that comprise the rotator cuff help raise the arm to the front and the side and help turn the shoulder inward and outward." Rotator cuff injuries typically occur in baseball players, tennis players, swimmers and football players. These injuries are caused by repetitive motion, falling on the shoulder or arm, or by lifting heavy weights.


The type of treatment received depends upon the cause of the pain. For example, treatment for a fracture may include surgery, plaster cast, splinting, traction, rehabilitation or physiotherapy.

Treatment for shoulder tendinitis may include rest, immobilisation, a plaster cast, heat packs, ice packs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or splinting the joint.

Treatment of a torn rotator cuff might include injections of corticosteroid, surgery and physiotherapy.