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The 5 Most Common Causes of Shoulder Pain Among Baby Boomers (And What to Do About Them)

By Lex Gonzales October 31, 2022 Health and Fitness

Shoulder pain is a common complaint among the Baby Boomer generation. In fact, it is the third most common cause of musculoskeletal consultation in primary care.

The shoulder is a complex joint with a wide range of motion and is subject to a lot of wear and tear making it susceptible to a variety of conditions that can lead to pain and dysfunction.

Treatment will vary depending on the cause of your pain. In some cases, rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain medication may be enough to relieve your symptoms. In other cases, you may need physical therapy or surgery.

The following are the 5 most common causes of shoulder pain among baby boomers and what you can do about them.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition where the shoulder joint becomes stiff and painful, making it difficult to move the arm.

The condition is usually gradual and may take months or even years to resolve.

There is no single known cause of frozen shoulder. However, the frozen shoulder is often associated with other conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid diseases, and even Parkinson’s disease.

Treatment for frozen shoulders typically involves a combination of physical therapy, flexibility exercises, and cortisone injection.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint. These muscles and tendons attach the shoulder blade to the upper arm bone.

The rotator cuff muscles and tendons help lift your arm. The rotator cuff also stabilizes the shoulder joint and keeps your upper arm bone in the shoulder socket.

A rotator cuff injury is a tear in any one of these muscles or tendons. A rotator cuff injury may occur suddenly, such as from a fall, or it may happen over time, from the wear-and-tear of aging or overuse.

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder impingement syndrome is a condition caused by the compression of the rotator cuff muscles and tendons between the bones of the shoulder.

Shoulder impingement syndrome is a condition common among the Boomer generation that can be caused by repetitive overhead motions of the arm, such as those often used in sports such as tennis, swimming, and weightlifting.

The symptoms of shoulder impingement syndrome include pain in the shoulder that is worse with certain activities, such as reaching overhead or behind the back. The pain may also be worse at night. There may also be weakness and stiffness in the shoulder.


Shoulder bursitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between bones and tendons.

This condition is also often the result of repetitive motion or overuse of the shoulder joint. Sometimes, shoulder bursitis can also be caused by an injury or infection. The condition is most commonly seen in middle-aged adults.

The symptoms of shoulder bursitis may include pain, tenderness, stiffness, and swelling. The pain may be worse with movement or pressure on the affected shoulder.

Treatment of shoulder bursitis includes rest, ice, and physical therapy. In some rare cases, surgery may be necessary.


Arthritis is a condition that can cause pain and inflammation in the joints. It can affect people of all ages but is most common in adults over the age of 65. There are many different types of arthritis, but the most common form is osteoarthritis. This form of arthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the joints breaks down.

Symptoms of arthritis include pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. The pain can range from mild to severe, and it may worsen with activity.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are treatments that can help to relieve the symptoms.

What Are the Risk Factors for Shoulder Pain in Older Adults?

There are a number of risk factors that can increase your risk of developing shoulder pain. These include:

  • Age: Shoulder pain is more common in older adults due to the natural wear and tear that occurs in the joints as we age.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop shoulder pain than men.
  • Previous injury: If you have previously injured your shoulder, you are more likely to develop pain in that joint.
  • Repetitive overhead motions: Jobs or activities that require you to repeat the same overhead motion over and over again can put you at risk for developing shoulder pain.

Treatment of Shoulder Pain

Treatment options vary depending on the cause and severity of symptoms. However, in most cases, shoulder pain can be treated successfully with a combination of:

  • Physical Therapy
  • Cortisone injections or anti-inflammatory pain medications
  • Regular Exercises
  • Lifestyle or ergonomic modifications

3 Tips to Help Prevent Shoulder Pain

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent shoulder pain. These include:

Exercising Regularly

Regular exercise can help to strengthen the muscles around the joint and improve your range of motion. In this article, I detailed some flexibility assessment and exercises you can do for your shoulder.

Avoiding Repetitive Overhead Motions

If your job or activity requires you to repeat the same motion over and over again, take breaks often and try to vary your position.

Modify Your Activities or Environment

Rearranging your work desk or placing objects you use most often at shoulder height can help you avoid shoulder pain.

Shoulder pain is a common problem among the Boomer generation. The good news is that shoulder pain is often preventable or treatable with a combination of physical therapy, exercise, and sound lifestyle and ergonomic modifications. Often, surgery is only necessary in the most severe cases.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What has triggered your shoulder pain? Have you been able to modify daily activities so you don’t experience shoulder pain? In your experience, what exercises or activities help you the most with shoulder pain?

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor to get specific medical advice for your situation.

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Hannan Ahmad

Shoulder ailments among the Baby Boomer generation underline the intricate nature of aging-associated musculoskeletal issues. The shoulder joint’s complexities, coupled with this age group’s predispositions, warrant a multifaceted approach to care. Addressing issues like frozen shoulder, rotator cuff injuries, and arthritis demands a synergy of physical therapy, tailored exercises, and potential modifications in daily activities. Recognizing the telltale signs early and implementing preventive strategies, such as regular exercise and ergonomic adjustments, can optimize shoulder health. Embracing a proactive stance on shoulder health can minimize the need for invasive interventions, enhancing the quality of life for many in this age bracket.

Lana Muir

At age 68, I had my first heart attack, followed by a second one three days later. I had experienced shoulder pain on my left side for about three weeks prior to the event. I put it down to sleeping on my left side too often and thinking that my mattress needed to be replaced. The intense pain was also in my right arm, but after an hour or two it would go away. The morning of the heart attack had me feeling as though both arms had been chopped off. Nausea and sweating were intense while I dialed 911. In women, shoulder pain can be a major indicator of an impending heart attack as I found out.

Lex Gonzales

This is a very insightful information Lana. Thank you for sharing!

The Author

Dr. Lex Gonzales, PT, DPT received his degree of Doctor of Physical Therapy from the University of South Florida in the USA. He has been a physiotherapist for over 24 years with a special interest in the geriatric or older adult population. Visit him at

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