The shoulders bear a lot of weight and perform a wide variety of movements every day, so it’s no surprise that many people suffer from persistent shoulder pain — even those who don’t play sports. Shoulder pain can worsen if left untreated, so it’s important to seek shoulder pain treatment early. Your physical therapist can provide exercises to relieve tension and pain in the shoulder complex. Below, we’ll look at the causes of pain in the shoulder joints, muscles, and tendons, how to know when to seek physical therapy, and simple exercises for shoulder pain that you can perform at home.
What Causes Shoulder Pain?
Arthritis, impingement, instability, and overuse can all contribute gradually to the buildup of shoulder pain and soreness. Other chronic issues like the following may also be responsible:
Rotator cuff tendonitis — The four rotator cuff muscles work together to support and move the shoulder. If the rotator cuff tendons become pinched under the shoulder blade, you may experience pain where the tendons attach to the arm bone.
Biceps tendonitis — The biceps tendon can be pinched under the shoulder blade or by ligaments attached to the collarbone and shoulder blade.
Bursitis — The bursa is a fluid-filled sac that enables joints to glide smoothly over one another. If the bursa becomes pinched, the result is shoulder pain.
When Should You Seek Physical Therapy for Shoulder Pain?
Any shoulder pain that results from a traumatic injury or that persists beyond two to three weeks should be seen by a physical therapist. Even if you don’t feel that your pain level merits a trip to your doctor’s office, certain issues tend to worsen over time and are most effectively treated before they can become more serious. Your physical therapist will recommend stretches and exercises, or refer you for surgery if you have a serious injury like a torn rotator cuff.
At-Home Physical Therapy Exercises for Shoulder Pain
While over-the-counter medications may be a tempting treatment for shoulder pain, stretching is a very effective way to reduce pain and free up a frozen shoulder. Along with rest and ice, the following exercises for shoulder pain can be performed at home without any equipment:
External Torso Rotation — Try this exercise if you suffer from neck pain as well as shoulder pain. Sit in a chair with your abdominal muscles tightened. Exhale and rotate your torso to one side, keeping your hips facing forward and that your torso, shoulders, and hands move together. Pause and rotate back to the forward position. Alternating sides, perform ten repetitions for each.
Pendulum — Lean your non-injured arm on a table or chair back, and let your injured arm dangle straight down. Begin to move your sore arm in small circles, gradually increasing the diameter of the movement and reversing direction periodically. Repeat 5 to 10 times over the course of a day.
Arm across the chest — Stand up straight and hold your right hand out in front of your body at about waist level. Reach your left hand behind your elbow and pull your right arm across your chest. Lower the arm until the point that the pain lessens, and then hold the position for 30 to 50 seconds. Repeat with your left and right arms reversed, and perform 3 to 5 times on each side.
Shoulder U’s — Stand up straight and interlock your fingers behind your back to form a U shape with your arms. Maintaining a straight back, pull your shoulder blades together. Keeping your arms straight, push your hands up from your back. Perform 5 repetitions, holding each for 30 seconds.
Find Treatment for Shoulder Pain at IMPACT Physical Therapy