Topic Overview

Unexplained shoulder pain that does not change when you move your
neck, shoulder, or arm or that occurs with symptoms elsewhere in your body
(such as in your abdomen or chest) may be referred shoulder pain. Referred pain
means that a problem exists somewhere else in the body other than where you
feel the pain.

Causes of referred shoulder pain may include:

  • Abdominal problems, such as
    gallstones or
  • Pelvic problems, such as a ruptured ovarian cyst.
  • Heart or blood vessel
    problems in which pain is more often felt in the left arm and shoulder, such as
    heart attack or inflammation around the heart (pericarditis).
  • A lung problem, such as
    pneumonia, where pain may be felt throughout the
    shoulder, shoulder blade area, upper chest, upper arm, neck, and armpit. Pain
    is usually felt in the shoulder on the same side as the lung problem.
  • Other conditions, such as herpes zoster (shingles),
    Paget’s disease, or
    thoracic outlet syndrome.
  • Other problems,
    such as gas from laparoscopic abdominal surgery or air entering the vagina
    under pressure from some gynecological procedures.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP – Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD

Current as ofMarch 21, 2017