Physical Therapy for Shoulder Pain

shoulder pain

Shoulder pain is a common complaint that can significantly impact our daily lives, affecting our ability to perform even the simplest tasks. Whether it’s a sharp, stabbing pain or a persistent ache, shoulder discomfort can result from various causes.

In this article, we will explore some common reasons behind shoulder pain. We’ll also delve into how physical therapy can play a crucial role in its management and rehabilitation.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Considering how much we rely on our shoulders in day-to-day activities, having a fully functioning shoulder is essential. Here are some common causes of shoulder pain that can benefit from physical therapy.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that help stabilize and move the shoulder joint. Injuries to the rotator cuff are one of the leading causes of shoulder pain.

These injuries can range from mild inflammation (tendonitis) to severe tears in the tendons. Repetitive overhead motions, such as those performed in sports like baseball or during certain job activities, can contribute to rotator cuff injuries.

Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is characterized by a gradual loss of shoulder motion and increasing pain. The exact cause of frozen shoulder is not always clear, but it often develops after an injury or prolonged immobilization. It can also occur with certain medical conditions like diabetes.


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition that can affect the shoulder, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. It is often associated with aging, wear and tear, and, in some cases, previous injuries.


The shoulder joint contains small, fluid-filled sacs called bursae that help reduce friction between bones, tendons, and muscles. When these bursae become inflamed, a condition known as bursitis, it can result in shoulder pain. Repetitive overhead movements, such as those required by athletes and laborers, are common causes of bursitis.


Tendinitis is the inflammation of a tendon, which connects muscle to bone. In the shoulder, tendinitis can occur in various tendons, including the biceps and the rotator cuff. Overuse, improper technique during physical activities, and age-related changes can contribute to tendinitis.


Shoulder fractures can occur due to traumatic events such as falls or accidents. Fractures can cause immediate pain and limited mobility, making it crucial to seek prompt medical attention for diagnosis and treatment.

Nerve Compression

Nerve compression in the shoulder region can cause pain, tingling, and weakness in the arm. Conditions like thoracic outlet syndrome and brachial plexus injuries can lead to nerve compression and, subsequently, shoulder pain.

How Physical Therapy Can Help

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in diagnosing, treating, and preventing shoulder pain. It offers a non-invasive and holistic approach to managing shoulder injuries and conditions. Here’s how physical therapy can help.

  • Comprehensive Evaluation — Physical therapists are trained to conduct a thorough evaluation of your shoulder to determine the exact cause of your pain. They will assess your range of motion, strength, posture, and any contributing factors like muscle imbalances or poor movement patterns.
  • Individualized Treatment Plans — Once the cause of your shoulder pain is identified, physical therapists will create a customized treatment plan to address your specific needs and goals. This plan may include exercises, manual therapy, modalities like heat or cold therapy, and ergonomic recommendations.
  • Pain Management — Physical therapists can provide various pain management techniques, including soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization, and myofascial release. These hands-on therapies can help alleviate pain and improve mobility.
  • Strengthening Exercises — Strengthening exercises are a cornerstone of physical therapy for shoulder pain. These exercises target the muscles around the shoulder joint, enhancing stability and reducing the risk of further injury. Common exercises may include resistance training, range of motion exercises, and proprioception drills.
  • Range of Motion Improvement — Physical therapists can use various techniques to improve your shoulder’s range of motion. This may involve stretching, joint mobilization, and passive range of motion exercises to regain flexibility and function.
  • Postural Correction — Poor posture can contribute to shoulder pain. Physical therapists can teach you proper ergonomic techniques and exercises to improve your posture, reducing strain on the shoulder joint.
  • Education — A crucial aspect of physical therapy is patient education. Physical therapists educate patients about their condition, treatment options, and strategies for preventing future injuries. This knowledge empowers patients to take an active role in their recovery.
  • Home Exercise Programs — Physical therapists often provide home exercise programs to help patients continue their rehabilitation outside of clinic sessions. Consistency in performing these exercises is key to long-term recovery.
  • Prevention — Physical therapists not only treat existing shoulder conditions but also provide guidance on injury prevention. Teaching proper movement patterns and strength-building exercises can help reduce the risk of future injuries.
  • Post-Surgery Rehabilitation — For those who have undergone shoulder surgery, physical therapy is crucial for a successful recovery. Physical therapists work closely with patients to regain strength and mobility while ensuring that the surgical site heals properly.

Let Upslope Physical Therapy Help Alleviate Your Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can be debilitating, but it doesn’t have to be a permanent fixture in your life. Physical therapy offers a comprehensive and effective approach to diagnosing, treating, and preventing shoulder pain. By addressing the root causes, improving mobility, and strengthening the shoulder and surrounding muscles, physical therapy can help you regain function and return to your daily activities confidently.

Are you experiencing shoulder pain? Upslope Physical Therapy can help! We can help you get rid of neck and shoulder pain by getting to the root cause of the problem. Our team wants to help you get back to living a normal life as quickly as possible without the need for surgery or painful injections.

Contact us today to start your journey toward a pain-free and active lifestyle.

author avatar
Brady Hoffmann
As an active individual, staying healthy and injury-free is important to you. You make time for your workouts and training because it helps you focus, spend time with yourself, and work toward your goals.

Brady Hoffmann DPT, ATC

Owner and Founder of UpSlope PT

We Help Athletes and Active Adults Quickly Recover From Pain Or Injury So They Can Stay Active And Get Back To What They Love To Do.