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Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is more common as we age. The odds of having a rotator cuff tear are roughly as high as your age, so rotator cuff tears are prevalent. Wear and tear of the shoulder is common, especially with throwing activities, repetitive lifting, or maintaining your arms at shoulder height, i.e. for hair dressers.


The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. The balance of the rotator cuff and the shoulder blade muscles is important for pain free movements in the shoulder. Shoulders become painful when the mechanics are not correct. This can cause the ball of the ball and socket to move incorrectly and pinch tendons or compress the joint. Pain in the front of the shoulder and top of the shoulder is common with poor mechanics. Research has shown that exercise and manual therapy can be just as effective as having surgery. Many insurances will not pay for an MRI until completion of four weeks of therapy has been attempted, as tears are commonly found on MRI's, even for people who function normally. Having physical therapy to improve your mechanics can improve your ability to perform daily tasks without pain.

Rotator Cuff Strain/Tear/Tendinitis

The rotator cuff is not a true cuff, nor is it a "rotary cup." It is four tendons that attach next to each other around the humerus, which is the arm bone. The upper end of the humerus is the "ball" in ball and socket. As stated earlier, wear and tear of the tendons is common. Partial tears and fraying are normal with aging. When the tendons are inflamed, tendinitis occurs. Having good mechanics and mobility is important so that the humerus does not ride upwards and pinch the rotator cuff. If surgery becomes necessary, having good mechanics and improved strength will improve the speed of recovery.

Shoulder Bursitis

A bursa is a fluid filled sack that protects a tendon from a bone. There are many throughout the body. Normally, the bursa is soft and has some give. When it becomes inflamed, it enlarges and becomes more rigid. This causes it to be painful when the tendon rolls on over it. The tendon rolling over the bursa further inflames it, so it becomes a vicious cycle of inflammation and irritation. Physical therapy can help improve mechanics to avoid, or get out of, this constant cycle.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis is a condition where the capsule surrounding the joint adheres to itself and causes a tightness in the shoulder. Some causes of frozen shoulder include:

  • Reactions after an injury or surgery

  • Pain from other conditions, such as arthritis, a rotator cuff tear, bursitis, or tendinitis, that has caused a person to stop moving the shoulder

  • Immobilization of the arm, such as in a sling, after surgery or fracture

 It can also occur for no reason. Physical therapy can help regain your mobility faster. 

Total Shoulder Replacement

A total shoulder replacement or a reverse shoulder replacement are sometimes needed to treat severe arthritis in the shoulder. Your therapist will guide you through the process of recovery after surgery. 

How Physical Therapy Can Help

A physical therapist will perform an evaluation to determine the mobility and strength of the arms and shoulder blades. They will evaluate shoulder mechanics, which is how you move, and the ability of your shoulder blade to stabilize, which is it's job. They will also assess conditions that affect the shoulder, like posture and neck mobility.

We use a variety of treatment options, including manual therapy, exercise, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation to provide the best symptom relief. Instruction on proper shoulder mechanics for lifting and reaching is addressed as well. Our patients are educated on proper performance, as well as monitored while exercising here in the clinic.

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