The shoulder joint is the most flexible joint in the body. As it is responsible for moving and rotating the arm in all directions, the shoulder joint is very vulnerable to injuries resulting from trauma, misuse, overuse or poor posture.
Shoulder pain treatment is common in physiotherapy due to the delicate joints in the area. As a result, physiotherapists regularly treat the following shoulder injuries:
- Rotator cuff injury: this is due to either a sudden high impact injury to the shoulder, such as a fall onto an outstretched arm, or slower degeneration/wear and tear such as occurs with age.
- Shoulder impingement: this occurs due to the rotator cuff tendons being compressed by the bones of the upper arm and the top of the shoulder blade (scapula). It usually causes a sharp, pinching pain.
- Shoulder tendonitis: often this is due to poor biomechanics of the shoulder leading to pain and inflammation or it can be caused by overuse such as repeated or sustained bouts of activity that are out of the ordinary.
- Shoulder bursitis: shoulder bursitis is caused by inflammation of the bursa, a small sac of fluid designed to cushion the rotator cuff tendons from the nearby bone. This injury can be caused by repetitive actions or overuse of the shoulder joint and surrounding muscles.
Physiotherapy for Shoulder Pain
There are many different treatment techniques for shoulder pain and injuries, depending on your diagnosis. Some of these treatments may include the following:
- Manual therapy – including joint mobilisation
- Strength and movement training
- Posture correction
- Dry needling
Shoulder pain treatment can be very effective after a thorough assessment by a physiotherapist. Shoulder physio involves assessing what stage of injury you are at, followed by the commencement of a treatment plan which may include exercises, manual therapy and injury prevention strategies.
Preventing Shoulder Injuries
Shoulder pain is one of the most common conditions seen by physiotherapists. Since the upper body is used during many activities of daily living and sport, the shoulder joint is very susceptible to problems and over time, wear and tear. For existing shoulder injuries, shoulder physio can help. However, there are measures you can take to prevent an injury to the shoulder joint.
- Repetitive activities: There are some common activities which use repetitive actions that can strain the shoulder joint. Some of these activities can include lifting, painting, hammering, tennis, cleaning etc. To avoid shoulder strain, you should reduce the amount of time spent doing repetitive activities where possible. Where this is unavoidable, take regular recovery breaks. Remember, when returning to an activity after a long break, perhaps weeks or months, or when beginning a new activity or sport, start gradually and let your body adjust.
- Overhead activities: Overhead activities that are repetitive or sustained for a long period of time can place a lot of strain on the shoulder joint. By reducing the amount of time performing overhead activities and the frequency, you can reduce the risk of an injury. Again when this is unavoidable, make sure you increase the volume of activity gradually. If you feel uncomfortable, seek help early to avoid problems.
- Muscle imbalances: Shoulder problems often occur due to muscle imbalances or simply weak muscles. This may cause extra strain on the joints leading to abnormal function. To avoid this, shoulder strengthening exercises or corrective exercises to improve movement quality can help avoid injuries.
- Flexibility: Similar to muscle strength, tightness in the shoulders may cause the joint to function poorly. Appropriate stretching exercises or manual therapy may help to maintain good flexibility.
- Posture: Maintenance of good posture will provide support to the shoulders and keep the surrounding muscles strong. This can help to prevent injury when performing tasks using the upper body and shoulder joints. Correct posture varies between individuals so if you’re concerned, seek professional advice.
Shoulder pain and injury can be a debilitating condition affecting many areas of your daily life. However, physiotherapy for shoulder pain can provide an effective treatment program to help strengthen and support the shoulder joints while reducing pain and getting you back to normal activities.