Everyone knows that having pain in left shoulder can be a sign of a heart attack. So many people assume that right shoulder pain is not really serious and does not need to be checked. But the truth is that other serious conditions are also associated with pain under the right shoulder blade. Aside from serious conditions, other minor condition that causes right shoulder pain still needs treatment.

Potential Causes of Right Shoulder Pain


Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis is a familiar culprit of stiffness in shoulder joint. Symptoms of frozen shoulder may happen slowly at the start, but may get worse over time. The condition develops in 3 stages: 

  • In stage 1, the right shoulder pain starts and pain get worse when moving the shoulder;

  • In stage 2, the right shoulder becomes stiff and the range of motions is reduced;

  • In stage 3, the condition improves and certain movements can be achieved.

Treatment: Do some stretches everyday within your limits of motion; cold and hot compress can help; take aspirin, ibuprofen and other OTC painkillers. Doctor may apply steroid injection, joint distension and even surgery to treat this condition.



Gallbladder stores bile that is needed in breaking down fats. The bile coming from the gallbladder goes to small intestine and the ducts. However, when the bile has excessive bilirubin or cholesterol, it can result in gallbladder stones or hard deposits in gallbladder. 

Gallstones may not exhibit any symptoms, but if the gallstones block the ducts, it can lead to sudden pain. The pain can be experienced in right side of the upper abdomen which may radiate to right shoulder.

Treatment: Gallstones are usually treated by removing the gallbladder. Doctor may cut small incisions in the abdomen and use a camera and specialized tools to remove it. This procedure needs less recover time than traditional large incision.  


Lung Cancer

Constant right shoulder pain may indicate presence of lung cancer. Pain associated with lung cancer is a result of a referred pain. Cancerous tumors can press a nerve located within the lungs and the brain may interpret that the pain is from the shoulder. Likewise, lung cancer which had spread to other body parts can also cause shoulder pain. According to doctors, if cancer had already spread to liver, it may also lead to referred pain in the right shoulder.

Treatment: Doctor may use surgery to remove the cancerous tissue and even tissue around, prescribe drugs to kill the cancer cells and use radiation therapy, like using X-ray to kill mutated cells.


Liver Abscess

Liver abscess is normally caused by bacteria and characterized by a liver cavity filled with pus. Pus has white blood cells, bacteria and dead tissue. If the condition did not receive timely treatment, it can get bigger and cause pain in the abdomen and referred pain in the right shoulder.

Treatment: For liver infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. If it's too serious, liver transplant may be needed.


Calcific Tendonitis

Calcific tendonitis begins when calcium builds up in rotator cuff, which may result in pressure, causing severe pain in the shoulders. The right shoulder pain may get worse when you do overhead activities or when you lay down on the right shoulder. Stiffness and weakness are also associated with the pain.

Treatment: Proper exercise and stretches is needed to maintain shoulder's range of motion; cold and heat therapy also provide relief; extracorporeal shock wave therapy may be applied to break down the calcium deposit, but this may be painful.


Shoulder Arthritis

The risk of shoulder osteoarthritis may increase as a person gets older, though it can also affect young people due to trauma or injury in the shoulder section. One common sign of shoulder arthritis is shoulder pain when the affected shoulder moves. The pain may get worse when shoulder engages in any type of exercise. Besides pain, stiffness and restricted range of movement will also occur.

Treatment: OTC non-steroidal drugs, like Tylenol, ibuprofen or naproxen can provide help. Getting rid of excessive weight and do exercise regularly can reduce your stress and add your mobility and strength. Besides, hot or cold compress can lessen your discomforts caused by arthritis.


Breast Cancer

Women require regular screening for breast cancer. Early detection is the best possible way to survive this cancer. But if breast cancer is not detected early, it may start to spread.  If the cancer affects the right breast and it has spread, pain in right shoulder blade may be experienced. Any woman who is at risk of breast cancer and develops pain in shoulder blades should undergo checkups.

Treatment: Doctors may use a mixed method including surgery, radiation and prescription drugs. Hormonal therapy may be applied. Immune therapy which is still under investigation is targeted to kill cancerous cells. Talk to you doctor and find the best treatment.


Other Causes for Right Shoulder Pain

Besides all the above mentioned conditions, right shoulder pain may have other causes:

  • Pinched nerve can be the culprit of the pain that starts at the top of the shoulder and which radiates to the arm.

  • Muscle spasm can also lead to shoulder pain which affect the shoulder blade. 

  • Engaging in sports activities can also cause strains, dislocations and strains which can result in severe shoulder pain.

How to Deal With Right Shoulder Pain


Do Shoulder Exercise

To relieve right shoulder pain, it is best to do a shoulder exercise. Resistance training is one way to boost strength, flexibility and range of muscle motion. You may use resistance band to perform shoulder exercise.

If you have right shoulder pain, watch this video to learn the right shoulder pain-relieving exercise:


Maintain Proper Posture

Having your shoulders, neck and back bent at improper angles for a long time can put strain on the body. Sitting tall, standing straight or repositioning your body at your work desk are very effective in lessening any strain on your muscles.


Take Painkillers

Shoulder disorders like bursitis are anti-inflammatory and can be treated with pain killers. Shoulder pains are best managed with proper over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, Tylenol and Naproxen.


See a Doctor

RIght shoulder pain is common in daily life, but it can never be ignored and medical care is needed, if:

  • The pain is severe;

  • The right shoulder appears tender, red or swollen;

  • You become unable to move, then ask the aid of someone to bring you to the nearest hospital.


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