Shoulder Pain Relief
Do you wince when you reach overhead, slip on a T-shirt, or roll over on your shoulder at night? If so, you probably know firsthand how debilitating and frustrating a shoulder pain condition can be. Whether you injured your shoulder in a recent accident, strained your shoulder by over-training, or simply are dealing with age-related shoulder joint dysfunction, you may find yourself struggling with day to day functions which you might have once taken for granted.
If any of this sounds like you, our physical therapist team wants you to know that relief and resolutions (drug- and surgery-free!) are possible! Contact Physical Therapy Services for an appointment.
What Is Shoulder Pain?
According to data shared by the National Institute of Health, the estimated prevalence of shoulder pain ranges from 4% to 26%. Assuming this data is accurate, this means upwards of 1 out of 4 people are struggling with shoulder pain at any given time.
Both acute and chronic shoulder pain can feel dull, achy, sharp, or throbbing. It may be associated with weakness, tenderness, swelling, bruising, and instability at the shoulder joint and make it difficult for a person to lift their arm. Sometimes, numbness, tingling, and weakness can also develop in the arm, hand, or finger.
Your shoulder is actually the most mobile joint in your body and requires the intricate coordination of many muscles (including the so-called rotator cuff), ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, joint labrum (a joint lining to improve alignment), nerves, and bursae (friction-reducing sacs found between tissues like tendons and bones). Damage or dysfunction of any of these structures can lead to a shoulder pain condition.
What Causes Shoulder Pain?
Acute shoulder pain is a common condition which usually develops after some traumatic event in sports, occupations, personal injuries, or auto accidents. Chronic shoulder pain lasts longer and may come on more gradually; this is typically due to repetitive movement or overuse. Other risk factors for shoulder pain include poor posture and advancing age.
Our physical therapist team commonly diagnoses the following shoulder pain conditions:
- Adhesive Capsulitis (Frozen Shoulder): progressive and marked range of motion loss in the shoulder generally following some sort of injury, illness, or infection affecting the shoulder area
- Arthritis: Wearing down of joint cartilage causing painful bone-on-bone rubbing and inflammation.
- Bursitis: Inflammation and swelling of the bursae.
- Dislocation: The humeral head inside the main “socket” of the shoulder joint (called the glenoid fossa) can become partially or fully dislocated (dislodged out of place, usually due to significant trauma). Even if it “pops” back into place, your shoulder will likely be more unstable and at risk for re-injury unless treated.
- Rotator Cuff Tendonitis and Shoulder Impingement: Friction or pressure on tendons (e.g., if they rub against bones) can inflame the tendons and cause swelling, pain, and decreased mobility. Acute or chronic trauma can also lead to small tears in the rotator cuff muscle fibers.
- SLAP tear: this is a tear in the superior part of the labrum in an anterior to posterior direction and can be caused by acute or repetitive trauma.
How Physical Therapist Treats Shoulder Pain
The right course of physical therapy can help you manage shoulder pain without surgery. By meeting with a physical therapist for your condition, you will be able to learn the underlying diagnosis and contributing factors of your dysfunction, get relief from your symptoms, and then learn how to avoid recurring problems in the future.
Following a thorough examination in which we look at your physical body, medical and family history, fitness, age, and other characteristics, we can devise a treatment plan to address your impairments, needs, and goals. Our customizable and comprehensive services for shoulder pain generally include:
- Therapeutic exercises to heal tissues, improve mobility, and increase joint strength and stability
- Modalities like low-level laser therapy and electrical stimulation to reduce swelling and accelerate healing
- Joint mobilizations to improve shoulder alignment
- Postural training and kinesiotaping to improve posture
While there is no one-stop solution for shoulder pain, there are many exercises that can be done to help strengthen the rotator cuff region and ease the pain you are expereincing. Our physical therapists are highly trained to help improve the flexibility and range of motion in your shoulder, in addition to relieving your pain and discomfort. This will be done through an individualized treatment plan designed specifically for you, including therapeutic modalities and targeted pain-relief exercises. A couple common rotator cuff-strengthening exercises that physical therapists prescribe are wall push-ups and chair push-ups. Resistance bands can also be used to increase the strength in your shoulder and help relieve pain. However, it is important to note that if your pain is serious, these exercises should not be performed without the aid of a physical therapist.
When it comes to your upper extremities, injuries typically fall into two categories: acute or overuse. Acute injuries are caused by a single specific incident, such as a strain or tear. Overuse injuries are caused by excessive repetitive movements over time. Both acute and overuse injuries can range from mild to severe and can have a significant impact on daily life function. Shoulder pain can also be chronic, meaning it has persisted for 3 months or longer, despite efforts to relieve it. If you have been living with chronic shoulder pain, it is in your best interest to consult with a physical therapist as soon as possible, so they can get to the root of the problem and treat you accordingly.
Two of the biggest goals of physical therapy are 1) to alleviate your pain and 2) to improve your function. Your physical therapist will work with you to make sure that both of these are achieved throughout your physical therapy sessions. Physical therapy has been proven to manage the pain of several conditions, and in many cases, it has even been proven to eliminate shoulder pain altogether, thus making the need for harmful drugs or surgical intervention obsolete.
There are several underlying causes that could result in shoulder pain. For example, a sudden injury or trauma to the shoulders can cause them to become painful. Repetitive motions can also cause shoulder pain, as your muscles, joints, and tendons are working in overdrive. While there are multiple factors that could be causing your shoulder pain, some of the most common include sprains, strains, a torn cartilage, dislocation, frozen shoulder, tendinitis, and arthritis.