Common causes for stabbing shoulder pain include fracture, arthritis, and instability or inflammation of the tendons, according to OrthoInfo. The pain associated with these conditions can also be dull or throbbing.
Stabbing or other types of shoulder pain are sometimes caused by nerve issues, though this is not as common, notes OrthoInfo. A condition called bursitis is a common cause of shoulder pain. This occurs with excessive use of the shoulder, which causes the bursae in the shoulder to swell and become inflamed. When the shoulder moves with this condition, it often results in a sharp or stabbing feeling.
Excessive use also causes a condition called tendinitis, according to OrthoInfo. There are tendons in the shoulder that connect muscle to bone. The tendons wear down with excessive use of the shoulder, which then causes pain. Conditions such as arthritis and a fracture cause shoulder pain, though it is often closer to an ache as opposed to a stabbing pain caused by the bursae or tendons.
The cause of stabbing shoulder pain is diagnosed with a series of imaging tests, says WebMD. This includes X-rays, an MRI or a CT scan of the shoulder and its tendons. Treatment options vary based on the cause of the pain. In some cases, anti-inflammatory drugs help reduce the swelling and inflammation. Muscle relaxants, physical therapy, and cold or hot compresses are often used as well. Surgery is only needed in more severe cases.