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Burning pain in the shoulder

If you are experiencing any kind of shoulder pain, it’s definitely time to talk to a doctor – preferably an experienced orthopaedic shoulder surgeon.

There are a variety of different types of shoulder pain, but perhaps one of the most concerning is a burning pain in shoulder, or burning pain in the shoulder blade area, as well as more overall burning upper arm pain.

Pain in the upper body area like the shoulders and neck is concerning in general, but a burning pain in the shoulder and upper arm area can mean that you could possibly be suffering from several troublesome shoulder problems, including subacromial bursitis, shoulder tendonitis, or even a rotator cuff tear.

Of course, if you are experiencing severe shoulder pain you may have a shoulder fracture or a dislocated shoulder, and you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

You should also see a doctor immediately if you have experienced an acute shoulder injury in order to prevent future problems and increased pain.

burning pain in shoulder blade

Causes of burning pain in the shoulder

There are a variety of possible conditions that could potentially be cause of burning pain in the shoulder blade or upper arm area, ranging from relatively mild issues that are treatable without shoulder surgery like shoulder bursitis or shoulder tendonitis to more complicated issues like rotator cuff tears, SLAP tears (tears to the superior labrum from the anterior to the posterior), and brachial neuritis.

If you feeling a burning pain in your shoulder, shoulder blade, or neck that radiates to the surrounding area, you may be suffering from arthritis or rotator cuff tendonitis.

Burning pain in your shoulder blade or burning pain in your neck, shoulder, or upper arm area could be a symptom of any of these problems – or a combination of them.

Shoulder bursitis or subacromial bursitis

If the burning pain you feel in your shoulder seems to be somewhat localised, it could be that you have shoulder bursitis.

Bursa sacs are the small fluid-filled sacs that sit between your muscles and tendons and your bones – you have bursa sacs in all your major joints to reduce friction and allow for smooth and painless movements, and there are several different bursa sacs around your shoulder joints that can cause these issues.

However, if your bursa sacs become inflamed due to acute injury, repetitive movement or friction injuries, or excessive pressure, they become inflamed.

This is called shoulder bursitis or subacromial bursitis, and the symptoms include aching or burning pain in the shoulder region that’s fairly localised (at least at first, the pain can extend to the elbow or neck if the condition worsens, particularly if you don’t get proper treatment), and develops gradually over time (unless you experience an acute injury that causes it).

Shoulder bursitis also causes burning pain when you raise your arm above shoulder height or put pressure on the bursa sacs by laying down on the affected side of your body, and it leads to weakness, stiffness, and difficulty moving the joint over time.

It can also affect your sleep if you roll onto the affected shoulder or because of the pain in general. Anyone of any age can suffer from shoulder bursitis, so if you think you may be dealing with it, contact an orthopaedic surgeon as soon as possible.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is a condition that affects your shoulder joint. Since your shoulder is made of three joints that form a ball and socket joint, a frozen shoulder affects multiple muscles in the shoulder area and your ability to move the entire area.

With a frozen shoulder, the scar tissue becomes so thick that it’s hard to move your arm or shoulder at all, because it becomes so closed and locked up that it limits motion due to scar tissue. Frozen shoulder is characterized by injuries that cause shoulder tissue to become so thick and tight that you lose motion in your shoulder.

If you think you are experiencing a frozen shoulder, check in with your doctor as soon as possible in order to ensure you are not doing anything that could further limit motion or your ability to use your arm.

burning pain in shoulder muscle

Shoulder tendonitis

Shoulder tendonitis causes a burning pain similar to shoulder bursitis, but it is caused by degeneration and the associated inflammation due to repeated movements of the muscle tendons in your shoulder, most likely the rotator cuff tendons or the biceps tendons that cause burning pain in the shoulder muscle.

This issue usually causes a more diffuse or broader burning pain than the aforementioned bursitis, along with a sharp pain when attempting to lift or rotate your shoulder and raise your arm above shoulder height, or when moving your arm or shoulder against any type of weight or resistance.

It’s unlikely you’d have pain below the elbow with shoulder tendonitis, but the area over the affected tendon will be tender to touch.

Individuals who perform repetitive activities that cause significant friction at the shoulder joint (such as sports like baseball, tennis, or swimming, as well as certain types of manual labor that require a lot of overhead movements) often suffer from shoulder tendonitis. It can also be caused by things like bone spurs, muscle weakness, and poor posture.

Shoulder tendonitis will get worse over time without treatment, and may involve crepitus – clicking, grating, or grinding noises – when you move your arm. Like shoulder bursitis, this cause of burning shoulder pain can occur at any age.

That said, physiotherapy / physical therapy and strengthening exercises can go a long way towards easing the pain, but of course, consult with your orthopaedic surgeon for the best course of action.

Rotator cuff tears

Rotator cuff syndrome or rotator cuff tears are one of the most common injuries amongst athletes, especially rugby players, football players, swimmers, tennis players, and baseball players.

It is often accompanied by a burning pain or sensation in the affected shoulder, and if you have recently experienced an injury while playing one of the above sports or participating in a similar activity, or generally engage in activities like manual labor that require repeated overhead movements, then you should see an orthopaedic surgeon right away.

These are the types of injuries than can get much worse quickly if left untreated and can affect your long-term range of motion and health.

SLAP tears

These types of injuries often happen to athletes, particularly as the result of a fall on an outstretched hand, repetitive overhead actions, or similar movements.

SLAP tears to the shoulder involve a catching sensation and a burning pain when you move your shoulder, particularly if you try to lift your arm overhead or perform an activity like throwing or swimming with an overhand stroke.

The pain associated with a SLAP tear is usually described as a burning feeling that is deep in the shoulder, near the shoulder blade, or in the back of the shoulder joint.

It may also be associated or even mistaken for biceps tendonitis, which may bring the painful feeling towards the front of the shoulder over the bicep tendons as well.

SLAP tears can be subtle and may just feel like muscle soreness after a major game or long day at work; for example, baseball pitchers or quarterbacks may feel like they have a little less zip on the ball or tennis players may feel like their serves are not as powerful as usual.

SLAP tears, combined with burning pain after games or at any other time is a reason to see an orthopaedic shoulder surgeon for SLAP repair and diagnosis.

Brachial neuritis

This shoulder problem that can causing burning pain occurs when the nerves that control your shoulder, arm, and hands are inflamed, which can result in severe burning pain in your shoulder along with weakness that can limit your strength and movement in that joint.

These are the nerves that connect your spine to your neck, shoulder, and arm, forming what is called is the brachial plexus. Brachial neuritis can begin quite suddenly even the absence of other shoulder injuries or issues, with the pain often starting while you are sleeping.

It’s also referred to as Parsonage-Turner syndrome or neuralgic amyotrophy. Brachial neuritis is a rare disorder that can cause significant burning pain in your shoulder, along with weakness that’s severe enough to limit your ability to rotate the joint and your movement in general.

Other problems that cause burning shoulder or upper arm pain

Fibromyalgia or other chronic pain issues, gallbladder problems, restless arm syndrome, shingles, or even something as serious as a heart attack can also cause burning pain in the shoulder area and elsewhere.

That said, something as simple as sleeping awkwardly or muscle soreness or fatigue could also cause troubling shoulder pain – which is why you should always get burning pain in the shoulder blade area examined by a doctor if you’re even slightly concerned.

Remember that even if the source of pain isn’t directly related to your shoulder joint, various health issues (ranging from the relatively mild to life-threatening) can manifest in the form of burning shoulder pain, so you should have things checked out by a physician no matter what.

While these problems are not going to be solved via orthopaedic surgery, it is important to see a doctor or even the emergency room as soon as possible – especially if you experience a sudden onset instance of burning shoulder pain.

shoulder impingement syndrome

What should you do if you are experiencing burning shoulder pain?

If you are experiencing burning pain in your shoulder, neck, or upper arm area, you should discuss it with your doctor or orthopaedic shoulder surgeon as soon as possible, or even go to the emergency room if your pain is acute or you have recently suffered from a significant injury.

Burning pain in the shoulder area can be a symptom of many different issues, ranging from the relatively mild ones like shoulder bursitis or tendonitis to more severe problems like rotator cuff tears or even major health events like a heart attack (obviously this is a bigger risk in the case of sudden onset shoulder pain).

Regardless of what you think the source of the burning pain in your shoulder is, it is important to see a doctor and start the appropriate course of treatment as soon as possible, whether it is as simple as physiotherapy and heat or ice treatments or as major as surgery.

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