Shoulder Pain

Possible Causes for Shoulder Pain.

Lately I have been treating a handful of patients with complaints of shoulder pain so I felt this would be a good topic to talk about. Shoulder pain is very common and can be caused by a variety of reasons. I wanted to start by sharing a little bit about the anatomy of the shoulder to help you better understand what the shoulder looks like and how it functions. Then I will go into some common injuries and a few ways to help relieve the pain! 

Below is a picture of the shoulder joint, a very mobile ball and socket joint. The other ball and socket joint we have in our body is our hip, however the hip is a more stable joint compared to the shoulder due to its bony congruency. Shoulder stability comes mainly from its ligaments, muscles and tendons. This can make the shoulder more likely to get injured compared to hip.


Lets talk about the rotator cuff muscle we have in our shoulder.. For the record it is not ”ROTARY CUP.”

As mentioned before, we rely on the muscles of the shoulder for stability, versus bone. The rotator cuff is one of the main stabilizers of the glenuhumeral joint and I sometimes compare it to a baseball glove that keeps the ball safely in the socket. It includes 4 different small muscles , named Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres minor and Subscapularis, for short SITS. I have never seen a rotator cuff machine at the gym, so most people do not know how to strengthen it! Even though the there is no machine, it is imperative to have a strong rotator cuff to avoid injury. Most people tend to focus on their deltoids, upper trapezius and pectoralis muscles, which are all great muscles and they will make you look muscular, but it is all about balance when it comes to injury prevention. A weak rotator cuff may lead to tendinitis or a strain. To avoid this check out the video below to start strengthening them today! 


In addition to stability,  sequential movement of each bone in your shoulder moving fluidly together is important. Movement disorders of the scapula, or capsular restriction like frozen shoulder can limit your full range of motion. For example, if your scapula is not upwardly rotating during overhead motions, over time this may or may not lead to pain. A common term physical therapists or doctors may use to describe your shoulder pain is “impingement”. Which basically means compression of a structure in your joint. Impingement is a general term- because there are many structures that can be impinged or compressed in the shoulder. Your bicep tendon, supraspinatus tendon or bursa can all get impinged and cause pain and inflammation. Ensuring your scapula is moving appropriately helps to decrease the chances of impingement in the shoulder.

Arthritis in the joint is basically extra bone in the joint, or bone spurs that can lead to movement restrictions. Having arthritis may also mean less joint space where tendons, ligaments and bursas are found. The subacromial space is already a small space and arthritis can make the space even smaller leading to impingement, inflammation and pain.

A muscle strain is another common diagnosis. Going over board at the gym or putting in endless hours of yard work can lead to a muscular strain. Essentially a load that a muscle is not use to sustaining is at risk for developing a strain.

So how do we fix these possible causes of shoulder pain? Well everyone is different and their pain can be coming from different areas, so a thorough examination from us would be ideal to know exactly what is going on. But here are a few tips to keep your shoulder healthy before it even hurts!

  1. Be mindful of your posture especially if you sit at a desk all day. Avoid constant slouching. Balance your workouts. For example don’t just focus on benching or pressing. This can lead to the shoulder being in a more anterior position, making it more at risk for injury. Check out these two stretches for your pecs and bicep that contribute to anterior positioning of the shoulder.

Pectoralis Stretch

Squeeze shoulder blade and rotate away to feel stretch in front.

Hold 1 -2 minutes

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Bicep Stretch

Start with palm down, rotate thumb up- You should feel stretch from elbow to your shoulder.

Hold 1-2 minutes

2. Strengthen your rotator cuff before there is even an issue! You can use a band or light weight. Check the video above for proper form.

3. Keep the muscles in the back of your shoulder stronger than you think- Your middle trapezius, rhomboids and lower trapezius all help with scapular mobility and stability.

4. Roll out any muscles or triggerpoints in the back of your shoulder that could be causing pain or restrictions. 

5. Most importantly if you are in pain already- try icing and avoiding any exercises that make it worse until it is addressed!

If this doesn’t do the trick. Call us today! We will get you going in the right direction, making sure your shoulder stays healthy. I have stressed this before, don’t wait until you can’t move your arm at all. You may just need one session to find out what is going on and learn how to fix it yourself!

-Own Your Own Recovery-

Call us today: 401-250-3060 to book a free phone consult or free discovery session!