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Shoulder pain is common and it can greatly affect your life. The shoulder joint is one of the most complicated joints in the human body. It is made up of bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons that work together to provide a wide range of motion. Unfortunately, shoulder pain can occur due to injury or degenerative conditions. Physiotherapy plays an important role in helping people manage shoulder pain.

An Introduction to Physiotherapy for Shoulder Pain

If you are experiencing pain in your shoulder or a restricted range of motion in your shoulder joint then it might be time to see a physiotherapist who specializes in orthopedic injuries. Physiotherapy is a great way to help manage shoulder pain, improve shoulder mobility and strengthen the shoulder muscles.

A physiotherapist will assess your current shoulder status and make up a treatment plan tailored to your specific situation. Treatment may include manual therapy, specific shoulder exercises and postural advice. Depending on your shoulder condition, treatments like electrotherapy, ultrasound or dry needling may also be recommended.

What Are The Most Common Causes Of Shoulder Pain?

Because the shoulder joint is so complicated and vital to many of our movements, shoulder pain is quite common in men and women, young and old. Common shoulder injuries and pain symptoms can be caused by occupational or sports-related shoulder strains, shoulder impingement, shoulder instability or shoulder fractures. Sometimes shoulder pain can also result from a shoulder bursa infection or rotator cuff tear.

In addition, simply having poor posture or bad shoulder ergonomics can put unnecessary stress on the joint and lead to shoulder pain. Having our bodies in poor alignment can cause shoulder muscles and ligaments to be overworked, leading to shoulder pain.

Man holding shoulder

What Are The Different Types Of Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain can vary in intensity, from mild soreness to severe shoulder pain. It is important to be aware of the specific type of shoulder pain you are experiencing as it can help your physiotherapist accurately diagnose and treat the issue.

The most common types of shoulder pain include:

Acute Shoulder Pain

Sharp and sudden shoulder pain may last for a few days or weeks. If you’re experiencing acute shoulder pain, there’s a good chance that it’s due to an injury. If the pain is severe, you may also have a rotator cuff tear or labrum tear. In either case, you’ll need to seek medical advice as soon as possible for treatment.

Treatment for acute shoulder pain typically involves rest and rehabilitation. The aim is to alleviate the pain and enable the shoulder joint to heal properly.

Chronic Shoulder Pain

Chronic shoulder pain is shoulder pain that persists over a longer period of time. Depending on the cause, shoulder pain can last for weeks or even months. It is important to consult with a physiotherapist so they can properly assess and diagnose the issue and create an effective treatment plan.

Treatment for chronic shoulder pain usually involves strengthening and stretching exercises, manual therapy, electrotherapy, ultrasound and dry needling. These treatments help manage shoulder pain while also helping to restore shoulder mobility and strength.

Lateral Shoulder Pain

Pain on the side of the shoulder joint is often caused by impingement syndrome. This occurs when shoulder tendons are compressed or trapped in the shoulder joint. This can also be due to shoulder instability, where shoulder ligaments are weakened and shoulder muscles become overworked.

The treatment for shoulder impingement syndrome usually involves a combination of manual therapy, shoulder strengthening exercises, postural advice and electrotherapy.

Referral Shoulder Pain

Pain that radiates down into the shoulder or arm, often caused by shoulder bursitis. Bursitis is inflammation of the shoulder bursa, which can cause shoulder pain and tenderness. Treatment for shoulder bursitis usually involves manual therapy and electrotherapy to reduce shoulder inflammation, as well as shoulder exercises to help strengthen the shoulder muscles and improve overall shoulder stability.

Rotator Cuff Shoulder Pain

Pain in the shoulder joint caused by an injury to the rotator cuff muscles. Treatment for shoulder rotator cuff pain may involve shoulder exercises, shoulder strengthening exercises, shoulder taping and dry needling. Your physiotherapist will help you determine the best treatment plan to suit your specific needs.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is shoulder pain accompanied by shoulder stiffness and limited shoulder movement. Physiotherapy treatment for frozen shoulder usually involves shoulder stretching, shoulder exercises to improve shoulder mobility and joint mobilization techniques to reduce shoulder stiffness.

Arthritic Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is caused by shoulder arthritis, typically due to wear and tear in the shoulder joint. Treatment for shoulder arthritis usually involves shoulder exercises, lifestyle modifications and manual therapy to help reduce shoulder pain and stiffness.

Shoulder anatomy

The Anatomy of The Shoulder

The shoulder is a complex and intricate joint made up of bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles. The shoulder joint can be divided into three sections:

  • Glenohumeral Joint – Where the shoulder blade (scapula) meets the shoulder joint (humerus).
  • Acromioclavicular Joint – where the shoulder blade meets the collarbone (clavicle).
  • Scapulothoracic Joint – where the shoulder blade moves against the ribcage.

Each section has its own unique set of movements and functions that are necessary for everyday activities. Understanding how these components work together will help you understand why shoulder pain occurs and how to effectively treat it.

Physiotherapy Vs. Other Treatments For Shoulder Pain

Physiotherapy is a non-invasive treatment for shoulder pain. Sometimes surgery to repair damage in the shoulder is necessary, however, if possible other treatment options should be explored before agreeing to surgery. Physiotherapy can help reduce shoulder pain, restore shoulder movement and improve shoulder strength. The combination of manual therapy, shoulder exercises and other treatments such as dry needling can be effective in helping to manage shoulder pain.

It is important to rest the shoulder after any injury or flare-up of shoulder pain, however, over time this will lead to further deterioration of the shoulder joint due to lack of use. It is therefore essential that you seek professional advice from a physiotherapist so they can assess your condition and create an individualized treatment plan for your shoulder pain. This may include exercises to help strengthen the shoulder muscles, improve shoulder stability and reduce shoulder inflammation; all of which are key components in managing shoulder pain effectively.

manual therapy on shoulder

Physiotherapy Techniques for Shoulder Pain

Physiotherapists have a variety of techniques to treat shoulder pain. After your initial assessment, your physiotherapist will develop a treatment plan uniquely tailored to your condition. The possible techniques include:

Manual Therapy Techniques

Manual therapy is used to assess and treat shoulder pain by mobilizing the shoulder joint and its surrounding muscles. This involves the use of hands-on techniques such as massage, myofascial release, joint mobilization and manipulation.

Exercise Therapy

Exercise therapy is an effective way to reduce shoulder pain and improve shoulder strength and stability. Your physiotherapist will create a personalized exercise program tailored to your needs with specific shoulder exercises that can be performed at home or in the clinic. Exercises may include shoulder stretching, shoulder strengthening exercises, core stability exercises and postural correction exercises.

Electrotherapy Techniques

Electrotherapy uses electrical stimulation to reduce inflammation in the shoulder joint which helps reduce shoulder pain. Laser therapy is one of the main techniques used to treat shoulder pain.

Joint Manipulation

Joint manipulation is a technique used to enhance shoulder movement and reduce shoulder pain. This is usually done by gently moving the shoulder joint in different directions.

Postural Education

Educating clients is one of the most important jobs of a physiotherapist. Explaining the importance of proper posture and demonstrating proper postural form is critical for shoulder pain management.

It is important to remember that shoulder pain can be managed with the right treatment plan. Physiotherapy is an effective tool for shoulder pain relief and should not be overlooked as a possible treatment option for shoulder pain. A physiotherapist will assess your condition and develop a personalized plan to help reduce shoulder pain, restore shoulder movement and improve shoulder strength. With the right treatment plan, you can get back on track to enjoying life without shoulder pain.

Which Physiotherapy Treatment is Right for Me?

After an initial assessment, your physiotherapist will consult with you and together you will both decide on a plan of action. It is important to choose a therapist who has a broad knowledge of treating shoulder pain and is able to have different treatment plans they can offer. You should rely on your physio’s knowledge and experience to create a treatment plan that is uniquely suited to your needs.

Your shoulder pain can be managed with the right treatment plan, so take the time to seek professional advice from a physiotherapist and get back on track. With their help and guidance, you can reduce shoulder pain and improve shoulder function so you can enjoy life without shoulder pain.

How Long Will Physiotherapy Take to Help Me with My Shoulder Pain?

No two shoulder injuries are the same so it is impossible to predict how long your recovery will take. However, here are some basic guidelines as to the length of time it will take to recover.

For shoulder pain due to an acute injury, it will usually take between 4-6 weeks for the shoulder to heal. For shoulder pain due to a chronic condition such as arthritis, shoulder pain could take up to 6 months or longer depending on the severity of your shoulder condition.

Your physiotherapist will assess your shoulder and create a tailored treatment plan designed for your specific shoulder needs that should get you back on track in no time. With their help and guidance, you can reduce shoulder pain and improve shoulder function so you can enjoy life without shoulder pain.


If you are struggling with shoulder pain, please know that you are not alone. Many people experience this type of pain at some point in their lives. The good news is that physiotherapy can help! Physiotherapy is a natural alternative to pain medication and surgery, and it is proven to be effective. At Bergin Motion, we have a team of experienced physiotherapists who will work with you to develop a treatment plan that meets your needs. We offer various services such as massage therapy, acupuncture, and exercise rehabilitation. If you are interested in learning more about how physiotherapy can help relieve your shoulder pain, book an initial assessment with us today.

Additional Resources

Healthline article on ten exercises to relieve shoulder pain.

WebMD article on physiotherapy for rotator cuff tears.

About Bergin Motion

Barrie Ontario Physiotherapy

Bergin Motion is a Barrie Physiotherapy Clinic. Bergin Motion offers physiotherapy in Barrie to clients with a wide range of conditions.

The clinic in Barrie specializes in orthopedic, neurological, and pelvic health disciplines.

Bergin Motion treats clients both at their clinic and in the comfort of their own home if they cannot travel to the clinic.

Located in the south end of Barrie, Ontario, the physio clinic boasts 9000 sq. ft., with seven treatment rooms and a fully equipped gym.