The shoulder is one of the most common body part in which injuries take place. There are multiple underlying conditions that can cause pain and limitations on movement. Shoulder problems can be obtained in many ways such as a fall, strain from reaching an object, or injury from sports.
However, most conditions emerge over time from overuse or simply aging. If left untreated, minor irritations and symptoms can exacerbate and become greater, more limiting problems that are harder to treat.
Common types of shoulder pain include:
- Tendonitis/Tendinopathy: This condition results in the inflammation of a tendon causing motions such as reaching up or across the body to become painful. If left untreated, it can progress into a “frozen shoulder,” where the person loses some or all of his/her normal range of motion.
- Bursitis: Bursitis occurs when the fluid filled sac (bursa) that cushions the tendons and joints, become irritated or inflammed. It may lead to symptoms such as pain and stiffness.
- Impingement: Another condition that can lead to inflammation and pain is impingement of the tendons and bursa by surrounding bones. These symptoms can limit everyday activities such as reaching overhead, lifting, or carrying objects.
- Rotator Cuff Injury: This occurs when the muscles that aide in movement weaken or tear causing weakness, pain, and limited range of motion.
- Arthritis: Arthritis can also cause stiffness and pain during motion. This condition causes the tissue or cartilage that protects the joints to wear down.
- Postural Dysfunction: Using computers or sitting for extended periods can lead to muscle imbalances in the shoulder which can progress to pain and injury.
Physical Therapy for Shoulder Pain
Although some injuries may require surgery to fix the “damages”, physical therapy alone can be used as treatment. In fact, shoulder pain physical therapy is effective in treating most shoulder conditions and injuries.
During the initial evaluation, the physical therapist will conduct a series of tests and assessments to determine the appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan. They may measure the patient’s strength, range of motion, evaluate his/her posture, and/or perform screening tools to pinpoint the exact area of injury.
The best treatment plans are individualized to each patient based on their needs and pain level. They may include exercises to increase strength, mobility, and flexibility, which are important factors in preventing the development of chronic shoulder issues.
The physical therapist may also use passive treatments such as a cold or hot pack, electrical stimulation, and/or ultrasound to alleviate pain and increase blood flow to the area. They may also conduct manual therapy such as mobilization or massage if deemed appropriate.
Since many shoulder conditions have the ability to become more severe, it’s important to seek help right away. Physical therapy may lasts between several weeks to several months depending on the condition and whether the patient underwent surgery. It’s important to adhere to the treatment plan and remain committed to obtain optimal results and faster return to normal routine.