Lifting nursing home residents may lead to staff blaming their shoulder soreness on physical strain. But a new study indicates shoulder joint pain symptoms may be linked to cardiovascular problems.

Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health researchers found in a current study that participants with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes were more likely to have shoulder pain. Those with the most severe risk factors were 4.6 times more likely than those with no risk factors to have shoulder joint pain.

A more straining job, such as meat processing or cabinet making, did not translate to more shoulder problems, they found.

“What we think we are seeing is that high force can accelerate rotator cuff issues but is not the primary driver,” according to Kurt Hegmann, M.D., M.P.H., Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine and director of the center. “Cardiovascular disease risk factors could be more important than job factors for incurring these types of problems.”

Hegmann said it’s possible that those who lower their blood pressure or curb other heart risk factors could alleviate some shoulder discomfort. Those with increased risk for heart disease also had a tendency toward carpal tunnel syndrome, Achilles tendinitis, and tennis elbow, all musculoskeletal disorders, according to previous research.

Results appeared in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.