Shoulder Pain

Signs and Symptoms

One common condition we see that results in shoulder pain is Osteoarthritis (shoulder OA). It is a condition that occurs when the cartilage that lines the sides of the shoulder joint is worn or torn away. It may be caused by injury, dislocation, or “wear and tear” of the shoulder over time. Shoulder OA develops most often in people in their 50s, and beyond. However, it can develop in younger people after trauma or surgery to a joint. The condition occurs more frequently in women than men. It may cause you to experience:

  • Pain with activities that relieves with rest
  • Decreased shoulder movement (range of motion), especially when reaching back as if grabbing a seat belt
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness and eventual difficulty using the affected arm
  • Pain at rest and difficulty sleeping as the condition worsens

Another condition we treat is stiff or "frozen shoulder." The techinical name of this condition is adhesive capsulitis, and it results in stiffening due to scar tissue. This causes painful movement and loss of motion. Some believe it is caused by inflammation, such as when the lining of a joint becomes inflamed (synovitis), and some believe it is caused by autoimmune reactions, where the body launches an “attack” against its own substances and tissues. Other possible causes include:

  • Reactions after an injury or surgery
  • Pain from other conditions—such as arthritis, a rotator cuff tear, bursitis, or tendinitis—that has caused you to stop movement
  • Immobilization of your arm, such as in a sling, after surgery or fracture


How We Evaluate

To identify the cause of your symptoms, we may:

  • Review your medical history, and discuss any previous surgery, fractures, or other injuries.
  • Ask you to describe your pain and observe any pain patterns in the surrounding areas.
  • Conduct a physical examination.

When someone develops shoulder pain, the first recommended treatment is physical therapy.


How Can a Physical Therapist Help?

 Once the evaluation process has identified your condition, we will create an exercise program tailored to your needs. It may include exercises that are geared towards:

  • Ensuring your safety as you heal.
  • Aiding motion of the shoulder.
  • Strengthening the muscles.
  • Relieving your pain.
  • Getting back to work and activities of daily living.


Information provided by the American Physical Therapy Association.