Physical Therapy Can Help Relieve Shoulder Pain
Shoulder pain is common, especially as we age. However, shoulder pain that limits your ability to function or enjoy life is not normal and should not be tolerated. Pain that limits your ability to raise your arm above your head or rotate your shoulder is called impingement or subacromial shoulder pain. Other names you may hear may include: rotator cuff tendinopathy, subacromial impingement syndrome, or rotator cuff–related shoulder pain. People who have these conditions usually feel pain during everyday activities, such as reaching, lifting and even just getting dressed.
The good news is that most people with shoulder pain can improve with physical therapy and shoulder exercises can be used to manage the pain. In fact, recent studies of patients experiencing persistent shoulder pain found that exercise therapy was just as effective as a steroid injection in the short-term, and as effective as some types of shoulder decompression surgery in the long-term.
Shoulder exercises that are supervised in the clinic or performed at home can not only reduce pain, but also improve shoulder movement, and increase shoulder function. The most common exercises prescribed focus on strengthening the muscles around the shoulder and shoulder blade, as well as, exercises to improve shoulder mobility or quality of movement.
The exercises that focus on strengthening your shoulder and shoulder blade are most likely to reduce pain and improve mobility. When you receive physical therapy, your therapist will supervise these exercises in the clinic and will likely ask you to perform some of them at home regularly to improve your results. In addition, to shoulder exercises, manual therapy, or hands-on therapy to manipulate the area, can help to decrease pain and improve shoulder mobility. Because shoulder exercises can be as effective as shoulder surgery and injections, and are less expensive and unlikely to generate negative side effects, they are often the first line of defense. In addition to helping the shoulder, they also offer the general health benefits of exercise. There are a variety of other treatments available that claim to help alleviate shoulder pain, but research has recommended against using laser, ultrasound, extracorporeal shockwave, or pulsed electromagnetic energy therapy to treat subacromial or impingement shoulder pain, due to the lack of supporting evidence.
To help guide your treatment and tailor a program to your needs, your physical therapist will provide a complete and thorough individual evaluation, test your range of motion and discuss your concerns. Depending on the findings, they will tailor an individual program to meet your needs and get you back to feeling better and doing more.