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Overuse Injuries in the Shoulder: Signs, Treatment, and Prevention

November 29th, 2023Shoulder PainOrthoHC

Overuse injuries in the shoulder are common in athletes who perform overhead movements, such as throwing a ball, swimming, and tennis. However, other people who perform repetitive overhead movements and activities can also suffer from overuse shoulder injuries. In this post, we’ll explore common signs and symptoms, prevention strategies, and orthopedic treatment options for shoulder injuries caused by repetitive movements.

What Are Overuse Shoulder Injuries?

Overuse shoulder injuries occur when the joint and surrounding tissues are repeatedly stressed or strained without sufficient time for recovery. An overuse injury of the shoulder can involve damage to the bone, muscle, ligament, tendon, or bone. These injuries are commonly caused by sports-related traumas or overtraining; they’re also common in physically demanding occupations, such as construction, assembly line work, and any job requiring repetitive upper body movements regularly.

Types of Overuse Injuries

Several types of injuries can result from overuse of the shoulder, including:

  • Rotator cuff tendinitis – inflammation of the tendons of the rotator cuff
  • Rotator cuff impingement – compression of the rotator cuff tendons
  • Arthritis – damage to the cartilage inside the shoulder joint
  • Shoulder bursitis – inflammation of the bursa sac located between the top of the arm bone and the tip of the shoulder
  • Adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder) – pain and stiffness restricting shoulder movement


Unlike other types of shoulder injuries, you are unlikely to remember exactly when the pain from an overuse shoulder injury started, as the symptoms usually progress gradually instead of suddenly. Common symptoms include:

  • Persistent or recurrent pain that worsens during and after activities
  • Inflammation around the shoulder joint
  • Shoulder stiffness
  • Reduced range of motion in the shoulder
  • Weak muscles causing difficulty performing daily tasks
  • Tenderness to the touch in the affected shoulder

Prevention Measures

Some prevention strategies that may reduce your risk of overuse injury to the shoulder include:

  • Allowing the shoulder to adapt by gradually increasing the duration and intensity of activity
  • Maintaining proper form and technique when playing sports or exercising
  • Maintaining proper body mechanics at work, particularly when performing repetitive activities
  • Preventing stiffness and preparing the muscles by warming up before exercising or engaging in other physical activities
  • Incorporating a variety of exercises into your regular workout routine to avoid overworking the shoulder joint
  • Enhancing shoulder stability and support by strengthening the shoulder muscles
  • Taking time to rest and recover between activities

However, even with prevention, overuse injuries can still occur. If you’re experiencing persistent shoulder pain, consider consulting with an orthopedic shoulder specialist for comprehensive diagnostics and treatment, particularly if you regularly engage in repetitive overhead activities.

Treatment Options

In some cases, the primary conservative intervention for shoulder overuse injuries is to rest the shoulder by avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms. However, if the pain doesn’t go away or gets more intense with time, seeking out care from an orthopedic specialist may be helpful. Orthopedic treatment modalities typically take an interdisciplinary approach, relying on non-invasive methods such as:

  • Physical therapy
  • Heat or ice therapy for relaxing muscles or reducing inflammation
  • Exercises and stretches to improve flexibility and strengthen the shoulder muscles
  • Medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxers, or other medications, to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Corticosteroid injections to temporarily reduce pain and inflammation
  • Slings or other supportive devices to support and rest the shoulder

If conservative measures are ineffective, orthopedic surgery may be recommended.

See an Orthopedic Specialist for Overuse Shoulder Injuries

If your shoulder pain symptoms persist or worsen after taking a break from the activity for several days, seeking medical attention from an orthopedic doctor for a proper diagnosis and individual care plan is crucial. Early intervention can prevent long-term/chronic issues while promoting faster recovery.

If you live in or near Hudson County, NJ, and would like to schedule an appointment with a top-rated orthopedic shoulder specialist, contact The Orthopedic Health Center today. Our offices are conveniently located in Hoboken, Jersey City, and Bayonne, NJ.

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