Don’t just shrug it off – weakness, pain, and stiffness can disappear for good with this simple treatment.

So, you have shabby shoulders. You can’t rotate them the way you used to, lift your arm up overhead, and they feel weak, stiff, or painful. There’s no need to “shrug it off” and suffer—we have a treatment that’s scientifically proven to mend your shoulder injury or pain.

Shoulder physical therapy is a type of treatment that is frequently recommended by doctors because it is a proven method of treating most shoulder conditions. According to recent scientific studies, physical therapy is a highly effective way to speed up the long-term recovery of common shoulder conditions such as rotator cuff tears and subacromial shoulder pain.

Ditch the idea of pills, surgery, and injections for shoulder conditions that are treatable through a natural and non-invasive approach. Read on to learn more about which shoulder conditions are commonly treated with physical therapy, how these conditions are healed through physical therapy, and what to expect from your physical therapy program.

 

Shoulder Conditions Commonly Treated through Physical Therapy

Shoulder conditions that are commonly treated through physical therapy include rotator cuff tears, shoulder tendonitis or tendinopathy, labral tears, shoulder impingement, and shoulder arthritis.

It is important for a Doctor of Physical Therapy to evaluate your condition to confirm the diagnosis and determine the cause. Many people who self-diagnose and try home treatments can make their symptoms worse since they are not trained to diagnose or assess the cause.

View the conditions below to see if your symptoms match. Then, dismiss the temptation to scroll through dozens of “home treatment” videos on the internet (which can worsen your condition). Instead, consult an expert in physical therapy who will ensure you’re getting the best care for your condition.

 

Rotator Cuff Tears

A rotator cuff consists of four muscles that control movement in the ball and socket of your shoulder. A tear refers to either a partial or full-thickness tear in the rotator cuff.

Here’s a quick video on what that rotator cuff is:

Signs & Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tears

Difficulty raising your arm overhead

Pain when pressure is placed on the affected shoulder

Muscle weakness in the shoulder when lifting or rotating your arm

A crackling noise or feeling when rotating the shoulder

 

Shoulder Tendinitis or Tendinosis

Both conditions induce pain and swelling in the shoulder are occasionally referred to as “shoulder tendinopathy.” While the symptoms of tendinitis and tendinosis look the same, the causes and treatments are different.

Shoulder tendinitis refers to inflammation of the tendon caused by a sudden overload to the tendon, whereas shoulder tendinosis refers to deterioration of the tendon’s collagen caused by repetitive overuse of the tendon.

Therefore, the treatment goal for tendinitis is to reduce inflammation, while the treatment goal for tendinosis is to restore collagen in the tendon.

Those who diagnose themselves with tendinitis and self-treat are at risk of making their condition worse if they have tendinosis. Even doctors occasionally confuse tendinitis with tendinosis, which is why it’s important to specifically see a Doctor of Physical Therapy for an accurate diagnosis.

Taking ibuprofen or other inflammation reducers can help tendinitis but slow the healing process of tendinosis. Tendinosis also requires more resting time than tendinitis. Since the symptoms appear the same for both conditions, a Doctor of Physical Therapy will determine which condition you have by evaluating the cause and performing further testing.

Signs & Symptoms of Shoulder Tendinitis & Tendinosis

A swollen area around the tendon

Pain and burning around the tendon

Lack of mobility when raising or rotating the arms

Pain that continues for weeks or months and is worsened from activity

 

Shoulder Labral Tear

A labral tear in the shoulder is defined as a tear in the cartilage within the shoulder joint. These tears are typically caused by repetitive stress to the shoulder joint, shoulder dislocation, acute injuries (such as car accidents), or wear-and-tear during the aging process.

Signs & Symptoms of a Shoulder Labral Tear

A locking sensation in the shoulder joint

A feeling of shoulder instability when rotating or raising the arms

Lack of mobility when raising the arms overhead

Inability to throw as far as before the tear

 

Shoulder Impingement

This is a condition where the humerus (shoulder bone) compresses the supraspinatus muscle (a muscle in the upper back) and the surrounding soft tissue. Shoulder impingement is typically caused by repetitive overhead activity, weak muscles, poor posture, acute injury (such as an accident), or a prior injury to the area.

Signs & Symptoms of Shoulder Impingement

Pain while raising an arm overhead or reaching behind the body

Lack of mobility when raising the arms

Weakness in the shoulder

Pain while throwing a ball/object

 

Shoulder Arthritis

As we age, our shoulders may develop arthritis. Shoulder arthritis is defined as inflammation in the shoulder joints. This condition is usually caused by cartilage degeneration from aging, repeated injuries to the shoulder area, or genetics.

Signs & Symptoms of Shoulder Arthritis

A clicking, grinding, or clunking sound when moving the arm

Persistent pain that worsens with weightlifting or sports that require movement of the shoulder joint

Limited range of motion in the arms and shoulder

Swelling and stiffness in the shoulder area

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Here’s How Your Physical Therapist Will Treat Your Shoulder Condition

Unlike other treatments, physical therapy will combine a variety of methods to strengthen, mobilize, and heal your shoulder condition so that you are left with strong shoulders and decreased risk of reinjury.

Your physical therapist will give you a personalized plan that targets the cause to eliminate the symptoms. If your shoulder condition stems from aging or genetics, your physical therapist will work with you to manage your symptoms and alleviate your pain for the long-haul.

Physical therapists take holistic approaches to treatment that will improve a patient’s overall health without the risks of side effects associated with medications and aggressive or invasive treatments. Patients who see a Doctor of Physical Therapy are saving themselves the hassle of ongoing frustration and medical bills from treatments that don’t work.

The five types of treatments below will be tailored to the individual patient and used in various combinations, based on the patient’s condition.

Treatment #1: Strengthening Exercises

Shoulder conditions are often caused and worsened by weak shoulder muscles. Performing certain sports, activities, and work-related tasks with unconditioned muscles increases the risk of shoulder injuries.

Muscular imbalances in the shoulder are common. Typically, the muscles in the front of the shoulders are stronger than those in the back of the shoulders.

Your physical therapist will assess which of your muscles need more work and provide you exercises to strengthen the trapezius, rhomboid, rotator cuff, and surrounding muscles.