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Pain 101: Shoulder Pain


The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the body and as a result there can be many different causes of shoulder pain.
Shoulder pain itself can be one of the most debilitating forms of pain and can cause significant limitations in one’s daily life.

Shoulder pain may result from a variety of causes including a falling injury, straining to reach an object, lifting something heavy or throwing a ball. However, the majority of shoulder pain or problems are a result of gradual irritation over time. This may be due to repetitive use of the arm, poor posture causing stress on the shoulder, or muscle imbalances such as tight anterior muscles and weak posterior muscles. If left untreated, minor irritations in the shoulder often lead to greater problems over time.


Pain 101: Intro To Shoulder Pain

Are you experiencing pain or problems in your shoulder? Click on this video to learn more about shoulder pain and steps you can take to decrease your pain.


the main types of shoulder pain



Tendonitis/Tendinopathy is an inflammation of a tendon. As this condition progresses, it becomes very painful and difficult to move the shoulder, particularly reaching up or across the body. In severe cases this can progress to a “frozen shoulder,” where a person loses some or all of their normal range of motion.



Bursitis is an irritation or inflammation of the fluid filled sack or “bursa” that cushions the tendons and joints. When the bursa becomes irritated the shoulder may become painful and stiff.



Arthritis occurs when the tissue or cartilage which protects the joints wears down. This can cause stiff or painful movement.

Rotator Cuff

Rotator Cuff

Rotator Cuff Tear or injury can occur when the muscles that move the shoulder joint weaken or tear, leading to weakness, pain and loss of motion.

Postural Dysfunction

Postural Dysfunction

Postural Dysfunction is a common cause of shoulder pain. The increased use of computers and extended periods sitting often leads to muscle imbalances in the shoulder which over time leads to injury and pain.



Impingement is a common condition of the shoulder where the shoulder tendons and bursa are impinged from the bones of the shoulder, leading to inflammation and pain. This often leads to pain with reaching overhead and lifting or carrying.

what can you do about your shoulder pain?

The solution to your shoulder pain depends on the source of your pain and type of injury you may have sustained. The first step is to consult with your doctor and discuss their recommendations for treating the pain in your shoulder. Your doctor may recommend restrictions on specific activities, medication and/or physical therapy. You can try the following steps now to help alleviate your pain.


It is important when you are experiencing shoulder pain to limit your activity and rest so that your shoulder can heal.

Cold Packs

Apply cold packs to your shoulder to help decrease pain and inflammation in the joints and muscles.  To prevent damage to skin and surrounding tissue, cold packs should only be applied in 15 minute intervals.


If you don’t have increased pain with movement, stretching and increasing the range of motion of your shoulder can help loosen up the muscles in your shoulder and decrease pain.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy consists of hands-on treatment to loosen muscles and joints, education on proper posture and movement to decrease pain, instruction on stretching and strengthening exercises to restore mobility and strength, and modalities such as electrical stimulation, cold/heat, and ultrasound.

exercises for shoulder pain

Following are a few exercises you can perform that may help alleviate pain. Please go to LIFE+ for more videos that may help you. Please consult your physician before trying these, and stop if you experience any pain or discomfort.

What is Physical Therapy?

  • Physical therapists are trained, licensed specialists who help individuals develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and function. Physical therapists specialize in helping restore flexibility and strength to the shoulder to allow you to enjoy your life, pain free. Discuss with your doctor if physical therapy is a good option for your shoulder pain.

Treatment Approach

  • Medical research has shown physical therapy to be an effective treatment with positive long term outcomes for patients with shoulder. A successful treatment plan consists of the following: hands-on therapy, an exercise program, posture & body mechanics training, and modalities (cold/heat, ultrasound electrical stimulation).

Hands-On Therapy

Physical therapists are trained to apply specialized, hands-on techniques that help relax tight muscles and restore joint movement in the shoulder.

Exercise Program

A patient-specific exercise program focusing on mobility and strength will be designed to help you return to your optimal daily activity and quality of life.

Posture & Body Mechanics Training

Physical therapists are experts at movement analysis. Your physical therapist will help you improve your posture and body mechanics (especially reaching and lifting) for your daily activities.


Cold/heat, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation are used to decrease pain and relax the muscles.