Physical Therapy Can Help Shoulder Pain

Do you feel like you’re carrying the world’s weight on your shoulders? When your shoulders bear the brunt of your weight, they are more vulnerable to injury. Carrying your children all day, overtraining, excessive lifting, or slinging your hefty backpack over your shoulders every morning can all result in shoulder pain. Physical therapy is the way to go if you already have discomfort or problems with your shoulders.

Physical therapy for shoulder discomfort is often a beneficial, non-surgical treatment, whether it’s for rotator cuff tears or other problems to the muscles around the shoulder. It seeks to rehabilitate and improve the function and mobility of your shoulder by strengthening the muscles around it.

Shoulder Pain and Its Causes

There are different types of shoulder pain. It is not caused by the same item in all cases. A shoulder’s anatomy is complicated, with numerous elements. The humerus (arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle form a ball and socket joint in the shoulder (collar bone). The shoulder is supported by numerous ligaments, and numerous muscles are linked to aid in movement in a variety of directions. There are several possibilities for the pain you’re having, including the following.


Tendinitis is a common ailment that leads people to seek pain relief from a physical therapist. A tendon connects muscle to bone. Tendinitis is most commonly caused by tendon inflammation and affects those who engage in a lot of physical activities or work in a job that demands them to perform a lot of repetitive motions on a daily basis. Those who are at a high risk of acquiring tendonitis should understand the need to not only see a physical therapist on a regular basis but also rest their shoulders frequently to avoid persistent pain.

Tears in the Tendon

An acute injury or degenerative changes in the tendons owing to aging, long-term misuse, wear and tear, or a sudden injury can cause splitting and tear of a tendon. A complete tear can cause the tendon to become detached from its bone connection, leaving the tendon hanging from the bone. Tears can be partial or total, resulting in the tendon being torn away from the bone. The most prevalent are rotator cuff and bicep tendon injuries.

The pain from a partial or complete tendon tear can be excruciating – but there’s good news! Up to 75% of participants with a complete rotator cuff tear were able to rehab their shoulder without surgery in a 2013 research (Kuhn et al. Shoulder and Elbow, 2013 October).

Arthritis or Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two types of shoulder arthritis that occur without a previous injury.

The smooth cartilage covering the ends of the bones where they form a joint is affected by this “wear and tear” problem. The cartilage between the bones permits them to glide easily against one another. Your cartilage wears away with osteoarthritis, causing your bones to rub together.

Physical therapists work with patients with osteoarthritis to maximize the amount of safe motion that the shoulder can accomplish and educate them on how to change their activities to stay within that range. Patients will most likely be given a home exercise routine that combines strengthening uninvolved muscle groups to help support those that are inflamed or injured.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the joints (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis affects the synovium, the lubricating lining of the joint that allows it to move freely. RA is an autoimmune disease, unlike osteoarthritis. This indicates that the body is attacking itself, specifically the synovium. Multiple joints, usually on both sides of the body, such as both shoulders, are usually affected.


A complicated network of moving elements makes up the shoulder. The “bursa” is one of the most important parts of the shoulder. Bursae are fluid-filled sacs found in joints all over the body, including the shoulder. They operate as cushions between bones and the soft tissues that surround them, reducing friction between gliding muscles and the bone.

Excessive shoulder use can cause inflammation and swell in the bursa between the rotator cuff and a portion of the shoulder blade, which can be unpleasant. Getting dressed or combing your hair may become challenging.


In the case where the arm is pulled away from the body, the top half of the shoulder blade can put too much pressure on the surrounding soft tissues, causing shoulder impingement. Shoulder impingement occurs when the top half of the shoulder blade elevates away from the body, putting excessive pressure on the arm’s soft tissues. The bursa and tendons rub on the shoulder blade when the arm raises. Shoulder impingement can cause bursitis and/or tendinitis if left untreated.

Because no two shoulders are the same, a unique physical therapy treatment plan must be established and implemented. A qualified and licensed Physical Therapist is often required to perform manual stretching and joint mobilizations. Rest, medicines, stretching exercises, and temporary avoidance of overhead reaching are beneficial treatments for the vast majority of persons who suffer from shoulder impingement. If the symptoms persist or if there is severe weakness that does not improve, the rotator cuff may be injured, necessitating additional evaluation by an Orthopedic MD.


Broken bones are fractures. A fall from a standing height is a common cause of shoulder fractures in older people. A shoulder fracture is frequently caused by a high-energy event such as a car crash or a contact sports injury in younger patients. Fractures in the shoulder can result in excruciating pain, edema, and bruising.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition that develops after an accident or in conjunction with another shoulder issue. When the shoulder capsule thickens, stiffens, and tightens, adhesions form, which are thick bands of tissue. Frozen shoulder can last for up to two years if left untreated. To avoid forming scar tissue in the shoulder, most physical therapists advise patients with frozen shoulders to rest frequently in between physical therapy sessions. If scar tissue forms around the shoulder, the muscles that surround it may eventually become frozen. This will severely restrict your range of motion and cause persistent pain.

Physical therapists are professionals at assessing, treating, and managing patients with a wide range of shoulder pain issues. If any of these symptoms sound similar, your therapist will assess your strength and range of motion, as well as your functional abilities (such as reaching up and behind your back), and devise a treatment plan to ease your shoulder pain and restore your mobility. Don’t ignore it; hire a physical therapist to help you with shoulder rehabilitation today.

If you are in the Asheville, NC area and are ready to start physical therapy, we’d love to connect with you! (828) 785-8388

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