What are the Most Common Causes of Numbness in the Shoulder?

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  • Written By: Patti Kate
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2019
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Some of the most common causes of numbness in the shoulder are medical conditions such as neuropathy or diabetic neuropathy. A condition known as thoracic outlet syndrome may also produce numbness in this area, along with other symptoms such tingling of the fingers. Rotator cuff injuries, as well as pinched nerves,are other common causes of numbness, as is multiple sclerosis. Poor circulation in the shoulder area may cause numbness as well.

When an individual suffers from numbness in the shoulder, he may associate this with overexertion or repetitive-motion injury. This is often a possibility, although other symptoms may accompany this type of injury, such as swelling and pain. One common cause of shoulder pain, tingling, or numbness is shoulder tendinitis. Often this is caused by repetitive-motion stress.

Tendinitis of the shoulder occurs when tendons become stretched and inflamed, typically due to over usage. Many individuals employed in occupations that require overhead lifting or extending the arm repeatedly suffer from shoulder tendinitis. Symptoms include pain, swelling, tenderness, tingling, and numbness in the area. Doctors may advise rest, ice, and shoulder exercises as part of a therapy program to treat this condition.


A rotator cuff tear is another common cause of numbness in the shoulder. The rotator cuff is located in the upper region of the arm, or directly at the top of the shoulder. It is made up of several muscles and tendons, which attach to bone. The rotator cuff may become torn through repetitive-motion injury or acute injury to the shoulder.

Severe pain and immobility is typically the most common symptoms of this type of injury, although numbness often occurs as well. If the rotator cuff tear is significant enough, it may require surgery to repair. Arthroscopic surgery, typically performed using a device known as an arthroscope, may be one option.

A disease of the central nervous system known as multiple sclerosis may cause muscle weakness and paraesthesia. This may produce partial numbness in the shoulder and other areas of the body. In more severe cases, complete numbness of the shoulders and neck may occur.

For some individuals with nutritional deficiencies, poor blood circulation may occur. This may result in numbness that affects various areas of the body, including the limbs and shoulder area. Left untreated, circulation problems can result in high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes. This is why unexplained numbness of the shoulder should be diagnosed by a medical professional.


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Post 3

@indigomoth - I think it's important to work out at your comfort level, but letting loose every now and then and pushing yourself can be very healthy, as long as you don't completely overdo it.

You might also consider that it could be due to not having enough water, or vitamins, like it says in the article. There are a lot of reasons you might be experiencing numbness.

Post 2

@Iluviaporos - I think the pain gets so bad with that kind of injury because the bone ends up scraping against the nerves when the muscles aren't holding it in place. I hope your mother gets better soon.

It's one of the reasons I try to do a regular exercise routine, without going too nuts. I used to try and work out as hard as possible every time, but I would get tingling in my hands and shoulder numbness, I think because I was just pushing too hard.

I know some people think you should just push on past that kind of thing, but my goal is to be healthy, not to be "the best".

Post 1

I'll tell you what, you don't want a rotator cuff injury. My mother has one of those, which has basically led to what the doctor calls a frozen shoulder. Apparently it's often a symptom of diabetes (she's pre-diabetic). For weeks, she couldn't move her arm without pain and couldn't lift it higher than about her chest at all. It took ages for them to diagnose it as well.

Once they did, about all they can do is to get her to do exercises to strengthen it. She's had a steroid injection which has helped a little as well. I think she wishes it was numb, because the pain really gets her down.

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