Shoulder pain is the 3rd most common musculoskeletal complaint seen in clinical practice, with 70% of patients still experiencing symptoms 6 weeks after their initial presentation, and 50% developing chronic symptoms (Ottenheijm et al 2011).

As there are a number of issues that can result in shoulder pain, the symptoms that are experienced can be varied. They can include:

  • Pain ; the location and type of pain experienced (dull, achy, sharp), could indicate which part of the shoulder structure is causing the issue.
  • Reduced range of movement, normally due to pain experienced.
  • Weakness inthe shoulder area.

What are the most Common Causes of Shoulder Pain?

  • Sudden overload to the rotator cuff resulting in a muscle tear
  • Rotator cuff tendinopathy
  • Sub optimal movement of the scapula causing compression on the bursa and rotator cuff tendons which lie in the subacromial space.
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bone Spurs

A physical examination will help determine the specific cause of the pain, and the particular structures of the shoulder that are involved. In some cases, imaging may provide further information to help determine the cause.

How Can Physiotherapy Help?

There are a number of treatment options for shoulder pain, the course of action to take will depend on the cause of the pain. Generally physiotherapy is recommended as the first treatment option. A physiotherapist will look to provide treatment for issues such as mobility, stiffness and weakness.

If surgery is required, a physiotherapist can provide both pre and post operative rehabilitation, to prepare for surgery as well as provide treatment to improve strength in the shoulder muscles and mobility after surgery. Physiotherapy treatment could include:

  • Massage therapy
  • Exercises to improve the shoulder’s range of motion
  • Resistance exercises and weight training to help strengthen the muscles.

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