5 Reasons for The Burning Pain in Your Shoulder

Written by on September 19, 2021 — Medically reviewed by John Doe

burning sensation in your shoulder region

Among the many types of pain, perhaps the most noticeable and alarming is the burning kind. Listed below are the most common causes for burning pain around the shoulder, as well as their:

  • Signs and symptoms, and
  • Treatment options

Let’s get to it!

5 usual causes of burning shoulder pain

1. Frozen shoulder

What it is:

Frozen shoulder is a condition affecting your joint capsule. This capsule encloses your shoulder joint to provide lubrication and stability.

With constant inflammation, your capsule can develop into fibrotic, scar tissue. This leads to intense shoulder pain and a limited range of motion.

Learn more: Our complete guide on frozen shoulder

What caused it:

The causes of this condition are also its differentiating factors:

  • Idiopathic – Started spontaneously with no known cause.
  • Secondary – Associated with previous shoulder injury, immobilization, or from a systemic disease (e.g. diabetes).

Signs and symptoms

  • Achy shoulder pain at end ranges of motion
  • In more serious cases, a deep, burning, and severe shoulder pain even at rest
  • Shoulder shrugging during arm movement
  • Limited range of motion during arm flexion (pointing forward), abduction (arms pointing sideward), and external rotation (arms turned outward )

Treatment options

Anti-inflammatory and pain medication can give short-term pain relief. Examples include corticosteroids and ibuprofen.

Intensive physical therapy for frozen shoulder can also address pain and other complications. These include range of motion deficits and arm weakness.

2. Rotator cuff tendonitis

What it is:

Shoulder tendonitis is another type of shoulder injury. It happens when there’s inflammation on one or more of your rotator cuff tendons.

Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles that keeps your shoulder in place whenever you move your arm. It can get irritated underneath the shoulder blade especially with continuous overhead activities.

What caused it:

Your rotator cuff tendons could get pinched under your shoulder blade. This is often due to repetitive activities, but there are other contributing factors. These include:

  • Poor posture,
  • Bone spurs (calcium deposits), and
  • Muscle imbalance

Pain may be mild at first but it can cause swelling and eventual degeneration.

Signs and symptoms

  • Sharp pain especially halfway through the motion.
  • Rotator cuff night-time pain
  • Swelling in front or at the top of your shoulder
  • Muscle weakness
  • Grinding noise within the shoulder


Anti-inflammatory and pain medication can manage the symptoms.

But, getting to the root cause is a better long-term solution. A physical therapist can help you get there. Heck, he/she can even prevent your achy shoulder from getting worse.

3. Rotator cuff tear

What it is:

Rotator cuff tear is when there’s a partial or full rupture of any of your rotator cuff tendons.
These are the tendons that connect to your upper arm and provide stability with arm movement.

It generally affects the dominant shoulder. It also happens to roughly 22% of the population. (2)

What caused it:

There are 2 kinds:

  • Acute injury. This happens because of sudden events. These include falling on an outstretched hand or from lifting a heavy object.
  • Degenerative – This can be from the degeneration of your tendons. This may be age-related. But, repetitive strain from overuse or from a neglected rotator cuff tendonitis is also possible.

Signs and symptoms

  • Sudden arm weakness
  • Difficulty moving your arm in any direction
  • Shoulder swelling
  • Night pain especially sleeping at your affected side
  • Experiencing severe shoulder pain when lifting objects
  • Grinding noise within the shoulder

Further reading: 5 signs that you may have a rotator cuff tear


Surgery followed by physical therapy is the best course of action. It also helps prevent further complications.

Full compliance with rehabilitation is key to preventing possible re-tears. (2)

4. Shoulder bursitis

What it is:

Shoulder bursitis (subacromial bursitis) is the swelling of your bursae. These are small fluid-filled sacs around your shoulder.

Your shoulder has six different bursa sacs. And, they’re there to decrease friction between the soft tissues of your shoulder.

Now, bursitis happens when one (or more) bursa gets irritated. Thus, leading to inflammation.

What caused it:

  • Acute injury – This includes trauma, such as falling on the side of your shoulder.
  • Chronic – Constant rubbing of your tendons or ligaments causes this. It usually happens with repetitive arm movement.
  • Infection – This comes from bacteria that entered the bursa via a cut, wound, or puncture.

Signs and symptoms

  • Localized severe pain in your shoulder joint
  • Burning pain in shoulder blade
  • Swelling that becomes more noticeable after shoulder movement
  • Shoulder stiffness
  • Arm weakness


Treatment options may include non-operative methods such as:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS)
  • Corticosteroid injection
  • Physical therapy program to increase shoulder blade stability and arm mobility

Aspiration is also done to drain excess fluid in the bursa.

If swelling persists, your doctor may opt to remove your bursa completely (i.e. bursectomy).

5. Myofascial pain syndrome

What it is:

Myofascial pain syndrome causes pain that originates from muscle trigger points.

For the shoulder, these trigger points are at the back of your neck and shoulder blade.

30% to 85% of patients with other musculoskeletal conditions can develop myofascial pain syndrome. (3)

What caused it:

Trigger points in the neck can be the result of several factors, including:

  • Being in a slouched position for too long,
  • Stress, or
  • Muscle imbalance from repetitive arm use

Signs and symptoms

  • Pain that may radiate from the base of your neck to your shoulders
  • Tender knot at certain muscles
  • Headaches


Myofascial pain syndrome does well with stretching or massaging the tender knots.

To avoid flare-ups of symptoms, adopting an ergonomic workstation will do wonders. This lessens stress on your muscles and makes it easier to work.


Can shoulder pain go away on its own?

By resting and avoiding any aggravating activities, you can lessen your shoulder pain.

But, symptoms can still easily flare up since the reason why you are in pain is never dealt with.
Left unchecked, your condition could lead to further complications and longer recovery time.

Can dry needling help with shoulder pain

Dry needling can help with shoulder pain via the following (4):

  • Reducing pain
  • Increasing pain tolerance

As it deals with trigger points, it’s especially beneficial to myofascial pain syndrome. But, it can also be helpful for other shoulder injuries.


Being in pain is not always bad. This is just your body’s way of telling you that you need to take care of it better.
Of course, pain can be tricky, too. But, it should be easier to prevent your shoulder injuries from getting worse now. Especially because you now know more about burning pain in the shoulder.


  1. Minagawa, Hiroshi et al. “Prevalence of symptomatic and asymptomatic rotator cuff tears in the general population: From mass-screening in one village.” Journal of orthopaedics vol. 10,1 8-12. 26 Feb. 2013, doi: 10.1016/j.jor.2013.01.0082
  2. Sambandam, Senthil Nathan et al. “Rotator cuff tears: An evidence based approach.” World journal of orthopedics vol. 6,11 902-18. 18 Dec. 2015, doi: 10.5312/wjo.v6.i11.902
  3. Tantanatip A, Chang KV. Myofascial Pain Syndrome. [Updated 2021 Jul 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499882/
  4. Gattie, Eric et al. “The Effectiveness of Trigger Point Dry Needling for Musculoskeletal Conditions by Physical Therapists: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” The Journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy vol. 47,3 (2017): 133-149.  DOI: 10.2519/jospt.2017.7096

2 thoughts on “5 Reasons for The Burning Pain in Your Shoulder”

  1. I find it alarming that shoulder pain could be a sign of tendon inflammation. Maybe I should relay this to my brother who’s thinking of participating in varsity basketball. This way, he could find a sports specialist that could diagnose and treat it when it happens.

    • Hi Zachary,

      Yes, shoulder pain can be a sign of tendon inflammation, among other things. That’s why it’s best to get checked by a physio to figure out what’s going on and treat it before it gets worse. More so before participating in sports!

      Let us know if you have any questions on the topic.

      Mitch, from Shoulder Savvy

Comments are closed.