What can PT do for my Shoulder Pain?
Shoulder pain is a common problem that has many causes. It is easily injured because it moves in so many different directions. Contrast the shoulder with the elbow. The elbow bends and straightens, and is therefore a very stable joint. The shoulder, on the other hand, moves in every plane imaginable— up, down, rotation in and out, across the body, behind the body, and all around. It is a mobile joint and not stable. It is therefore more susceptible to injury.
Common injuries of the shoulder:
Rotator cuff tears
Adhesive capsulitis (Frozen shoulder)
Most of the injuries below are caused by repetitive motions. This could be a throwing activity like baseball, football, or volleyball, working overhead (electricians), performing repetitive lifting tasks (factory worker), performing other repetitive tasks (hair stylist, grocery checker, small parts assembly). Other injuries can be caused from deconditioning. Think about the start of softball season. You haven’t thrown all winter/spring and then you start throwing from left field to home plate. A condition called frozen shoulder is more common in women between the ages of 35 and 55 and has no known cause. Fractures and sprains/strains can occur in all ages and people of all activity levels.
What to do:
Contact a physical therapist! A physical therapist can identify which structures of the shoulder that are causing pain (rotator cuff, capsule, AC joint, biceps), and determine the level of injury present (sprain, strain, tear, etc.). Your therapist can provide treatment to reduce pain, restore full ranges of motion and strength, correct poor movement patterns and muscle imbalances, and return you to your previous level of function or better. Your therapist can also help identify the reason for the injury and correct any mechanical faults that led to it, and make suggestions for modifications to prevent the injury from reoccurring.
After initial injury, apply ice, rest from the activity that brings on pain, and if necessary splint the shoulder or use a sling. Your therapist can tell you if you need a sling.
If pain persists after a couple of days, begin gentle range of motion exercises so the shoulder does not become stiff, alternate moist heat and ice, and continue to rest from the activities that cause pain. Follow the instructions provided by your physical therapist.
Restoring normal function of the shoulder is key to preventing future problems. If you have an old injury that causes problems a couple times a year, or if you want to prevent injury because you perform repetitive job tasks, talk to a physical therapist for an individualized treatment program to address your concerns.