Shoulder pain can stem from a variety of problems. For example, teenage athletes who play basketball may experience shoulder pain because they are constantly using their shoulders and arms to shoot, pass, and dribble the ball.

You don't have to be an athlete to experience shoulder pain or discomfort, though. You can experience shoulder pain from sleeping on your side for too long, using your keyboard and mouse in a poor ergonomic position, or falling directly on your shoulder or grabbing something while falling.

The shoulder muscles (i.e. deltoid muscles) are rarely to blame. The real underlying issue most commonly comes from an injury or complication with your rotator cuff muscles.

The rotator cuff muscles are made up of four relatively small muscles that connect to your humerus bone (the large bone in your upper arm) and help your shoulder joint flex, extend, adduct, abduct, and rotate.

The rotator cuff muscles are critical for shoulder movement, and since they are secondary muscles that get less attention than bigger muscles, like your deltoid, pectoral, and latissimus dorsi muscles, they are more prone to injury.

How do you prevent shoulder pain?

One of the easiest ways to prevent shoulder pain before it starts is to gently exercise your rotator cuff muscles on a regular basis with little to no weight.

You can easily begin to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles by moving your arm (at the shoulder joint) in all directions: lifting your arm straight up in front of your body, extending your arm behind your body, raising your arm out to your side, and rotating your arm in both directions.

NOTE: You can find additional rotator cuff exercises by searching online or by asking your personal trainer or physical therapist.

Strengthening your rotator cuff muscles, and all joint stabilizing muscles for that matter, is one of the keys to preventing injury and living an active, pain-free life as you get older.

What if you already have shoulder pain?

Sometimes prevention isn't enough and accidents happen. So, if you're experiencing shoulder pain, you can't move your arm, or your arm feels really weak right now, then we suggest seeking medical advice sooner rather than later.

The pain may be caused by inflammation in your muscles and be a simple fix. Or the pain may be caused by a tear in your rotator cuff muscles and require physical therapy or surgery, depending on the severity.

But you won't know until your properly evaluated. We're here to help if you're in pain.