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Ouch! Shoulder pain and how to treat it

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

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If you can't lift your arm above your head without discomfort, anything from a frozen shoulder to a rotator cuff injury to a dislocated shoulder could be to blame.

Shoulder pain is the third most common cause of musculoskeletal consultation in primary care. By some estimates, as many as 67% of people experience shoulder discomfort at some point over the course of their lives. Approximately 1% of adults consult every year a general practitioner with new shoulder pain.

The shoulder has the widest and most versatile range of motion of all other joints in our body. When something goes wrong with your shoulder, it hampers your ability to move freely and can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort. Shoulder pain can be a result of injury or disease of the shoulder joint. As an extremely mobile joint that plays a central role in the action of a major extremity, the shoulder is at risk for injury.

common causes of shoulder pain:

Rotator Cuff Injuries: The rotator cuff is where the four tendons that encompass the ball (humeral head) of the shoulder meet. Tendinitis or tears in the rotator cuff tendons may lead to shoulder pain.

Frozen Shoulder: Adhesive Capsulitis, known as frozen shoulder, is a condition affecting the inner lining of the shoulder (capsule). The capsule becomes inflamed and tight, leading to pain and loss of movement in the shoulder.

Shoulder Dislocation: Dislocation of the shoulder joint is most commonly caused by an athletic injury or a fall. The ball of the shoulder (humeral head) slides out of the socket. This leads to tears of the soft tissues around the shoulder and sometimes can cause bone injuries as well.

Shoulder Fractures: An injury to the shoulder may lead to a fracture (broken bone). The ball, socket, or shoulder blade (scapula) can be fractured.

Shoulder Arthritis: Wear and tear in the cartilage of the shoulder lead to arthritis.


Treatment varies depending on the reason for the shoulder pain. An in-office evaluation is typically necessary. Treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the shoulder pain. Most options will include physical or occupational therapy, a sling or shoulder immobilizer, or surgery.

Physical therapy & Occupational therapy

Most shoulder problems will benefit from physical therapy at the clinic or home. Physiotherapists and occupational therapists are specialists who can help reduce your shoulder pain and show you how to improve the way your shoulder works by using a variety of strengthening and stretching exercises, massage, and other therapeutic techniques. They’ll work with you to improve your symptoms and help get your shoulder moving properly again. What they suggest for you will depend on whether your problem is short-term or a long-standing condition.

Almost everyone will benefit from physiotherapy, using methods such as:

  • Exercises to strengthen weakened muscles, change their co-Coordination and improve function

  • Advice on improving shoulder, neck, and spine posture.

  • Exercises to ease or prevent stiffness.

  • Exercise to increase the range of joint movement.

  • Applying adhesive tape to the skin to reduce the strain on the tissues, and to help increase your awareness of the position of the shoulder and shoulder blade.

  • Manual treatments to the soft tissues and joints – such as massage and manipulation.

(check for some examples in the clip above)

To learn more about PlayBall and therapeutic shoulder ball exercises >>



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