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Physical Therapy for Shoulder Pain 

shoulder pain

You’ve been lifting heavy objects, overdoing it on the workouts, or slept wrong. Now your shoulder hurts.

With shoulder pain comes a restricted range of motion, discomfort, and setbacks. Icing it down to reduce potential inflammation, using over-the-counter pain relievers, and stretching aren’t doing much to help reduce your chronic shoulder pain over time.

So what’s next?

We use our shoulders for everything from reaching and lifting to carrying, holding, and pulling items. Shoulder pain can affect multiple aspects of your day, from work to exercise and even relaxing on the couch.

Fortunately, shoulder injuries and shoulder pain are very treatable if caught early.

Regular physical therapy appointments are ideal for those wishing to continue living an active and healthy lifestyle. But at the first sign of a problem, many primary care physicians will refer their patients to a physical therapist.

As a conservative approach to maintaining and improving your overall health and wellness, physical therapy can provide an array of solutions customized to your specific needs and goals. From basic strength training and flexibility exercises to mobility restoration and pain relief, physical therapy is a non-invasive, safe, and effective option for everyone.

When you’re faced with chronic shoulder pain, knowing how the pain originated and how to treat/relieve the pain are things a physical therapist can help you with.

How Does Shoulder Pain Typically Occur?

Most people wouldn’t give a second thought to mild shoulder pain. But when that shoulder pain worsens, it is important to pinpoint the origin. Experiencing severe shoulder pain can interrupt your everyday tasks.

Multiple body parts work together with the shoulder for a fully-functional joint area. Contrary to popular belief, the shoulder involves multiple tendons, ligaments, muscles, and bones that work together to provide the strength, flexibility, and rotation that you need to use it.

Shoulder injuries can stem from multiple areas, including the neck, clavicle, spine, ribs, and more. There are some common shoulder injuries that your physical therapist will be able to work on with you to give you your freedom and mobility back.

Tendon Tears and Tendinitis

Similar to the knee or ankle, the shoulder area includes tendons that can be affected by a severe injury or degenerative condition. Injuries, aging, and overuse can contribute to a tendon tear in the shoulder and cause serious pain. Tendon tears in the shoulder can be full or partial tears.


Relative to the tendons in the shoulder, tendinitis is a very common shoulder issue. This primarily affects people who are involved in regular or high levels of physical activity that use repetitive motion of the shoulder.

Aside from regular physical therapy for pain relief, healing tendinitis in the shoulder means taking the rest your shoulder needs to heal properly.


One of the main components of the shoulder, known as the bursa, contains small fluid-filled sacs that keep the shoulder joint(s) moving smoothly. With an inflamed bursa (and subsequent bursitis), you’ll likely experience restricted mobility, redness, and swelling. A physical therapist can work with you to reduce the inflammation and regain your range of motion without further irritation or damage.

Exercises for Shoulder Pain

Each individual’s physical therapy may look a little different according to your needs and goals. Your physical therapist bases treatment (and regular visits for health and wellness) around your initial evaluation and assessment of your pain threshold, range of motion, and quality of that motion.

There are several exercises and stretches that a physical therapist may recommend to relieve or even eliminate your shoulder pain. You may find that there are four common exercises that your physical therapist recommends both during physical therapy and at home.

Pendulum Swings 

Think about your range of motion in regard to your shoulder pain. It can be pretty restricted if left untreated.

A physical therapist’s goal is to help you get that mobility back so you can get back to doing what you love. The pendulum swing involves supporting your non-injured arm on a sturdy surface while letting the injured arm/shoulder dangle straight down. You will then draw circles in the air with your injured arm hanging below.

Arm Across the Chest

Arm across the chest is a common stretch, even when uninjured. Stretching your injured arm across your chest will help to reduce inflammation and stretch out any tension in that shoulder.

Pull your injured arm across your chest past your opposite shoulder. Use your other hand to grab your forearm, gently pulling it close to your body until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 to 50 seconds and release, then repeat several times.

Neck Release 

Pain in your shoulder can result from tension in the neck. While sitting up straight, tilt your chin to your chest. Then, as your neck stretches, tilt your head to the left or right to stretch out either shoulder. Using deep breathing exercises during this stretch can help you relax and maximize the effect of the exercise as well.

Wellness and Injury Prevention With Inspire Physical Therapy

Are you trying to stay healthy and fit but hitting roadblocks due to injury, illness, or chronic pain? Our team of physical therapists is here to help get you back to a pain-free and active lifestyle.

At Inspire Physical Therapy, we help everyone from active adults and athletes to busy professionals and new moms. Offering a customized one-on-one for a full hour with your doctor each visit and knowing the demands of your busy life, we treat the body as a whole and know that one specific injury or pain point might not reflect the actual cause of discomfort.

Contact us to speak with a physical therapist and schedule your appointment today.


Dr. Alan Hivale

Inspire Physical Therapy