Pain Edu: Shoulder Pain

Orange County’s Guide to Shoulder Pain

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain can be very problematic. We use our shoulders in everything we do. From putting on a shirt, reaching up into the refrigerator for a gallon of milk, turning the car steering wheel, and even sleeping on our side. Shoulder pain will limit those basic everyday activities and disrupt our daily routine.  Shoulder problems can occur no matter what your age or activity. There are numerous factors that can result in shoulder pain. Most common factors are related to poor posture due to all of our years spent in school or at a desk at work. Poor breathing patterns can also affect posture and limit shoulder motion. Its all about biomechanics. The shoulder is designed for motion. When shoulder muscles become tight and weak, the joint doesn’t move correctly and becomes irritated, inflamed and painful.

On the other hand, shoulder pain can be a result of direct trauma like a fall, or a hit from behind straining part of the shoulder.  The bottom line is poor posture, shoulder stiffness, and rotator cuff weakness are the major factors directly influence shoulder health. Proper management and evaluation is important in preventing injury, staying healthy, and improving performance.

Pain Edu: Intro To Shoulder Pain

Are you experiencing pain or problems in your shoulder? Click on this video to learn more about shoulder pain.

Types of Shoulder Pain



Shoulder sprains are injuries of the ligaments that hold your shoulder joints together.Most commonly, sprains will occur due to a fall on an outreached arm. The structure most commonly effect is the acromioclavicular joint (tip of the collar bone)..

Rotator Cuff Tears

Rotator Cuff Tears

The most common causes of shoulder pain is the rotator cuff. Repetitive stress on tendons will result in inflammation and injury known as rotator tendinitis. Typically, tendinitis will occur due to improper posture and shoulder blade weakness, repetitive activity with minimal rest, or poor rotator cuff mechanics.Tendinitis will result in swelling, tenderness, and pain when reaching overhead and occasional stiffness at rest.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen Shoulder

More descriptively known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is experienced as stiffness and pain of the shoulder joint which gets gradually worse then better over time. The fluctuating stages of frozen shoulder symptom can last months or even years.

Labral Tears

Labral Tears

The labrum is a piece of fibrocartilage located deep in the shoulder joint. It provides stability. Its also is an attachment for the capsule and surrounding rotator cuff and biceps muscles. The labrum can tear due to extreme ranges of motion, traumatic force, or a fall on an outstretched arm. Mild to moderate tears may be treated with conservative treatment such as physical therapy and shoulder stabilization training.



Ongoing irritation and Inflammation of the shoulder joint may result in cartilage “wear and tear.” Shoulder arthritis is characterized by stiffness and swelling that may be worse in the morning or evening. Once the joint is warmed up and stretched, symptoms typically improve however it is important to continue to stretch to prevent further tissue damage.



An inflammation or other irritation to the bursa, a lubricating fluid filled sac, bursitis can have multiple causes but age plays a predominant role.

Treatment Options for Shoulder Pain

The best treatment options for your shoulder pain depends on the source of the pain and type of injury sustained. Be sure to consult with one our highly trained doctors of physical therapy who will discuss their recommendations for treating the pain in your shoulder  We may recommend certain corrective exercises, stabilization techniques, manual therapy, soft tissue work, and breathing exercises to improve breathing patterns.



It is important when you are experiencing shoulder pain to limit your activity and rest so that your back can heal.


Cold Packs

Apply cold packs to your shoulder to help decrease your pain and inflammation in the joints and muscles. To prevent damage to skin and surrounding tissue, cold packs should only be applied in 15 minute intervals.



If you don’t have increased pain with movement, stretching the bicep, front deltoid, and rear shoulder muscles can be the first step in helping to loosen up your shoulder and decrease the pain.


Physical Therapy

Physical therapy consists of hands-on treatment to loosen muscles and joints, education on proper posture and movement to decrease pain, instruction on stretching and strengthening exercises to restore mobility and strength, and modalities such as electrical stimulation, cold/heat and ultrasound.

Exercises for Shoulder Pain

Following are exercises that you can try to help decrease the pain in your shoulder. Please go to LIFE+for more videos that may help you. Please consult your physician before trying these, and stop if you experience any pain or discomfort.

Standing Doorway Stretch

Pendulum Exercises

External Rotation Exercises

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