What Causes Shoulder Pain?
Shoulder pain can be caused by direct or indirect injury to your shoulder. In some cases, it can be caused by repetitive overhead movements, such as in swimming or throwing a baseball. Sometimes, pain may appear without any obvious reason or injury.
Here are some of the musculoskeletal conditions wherein pain may be one of the symptoms:
- Shoulder muscle strain
- Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis
- Rotator cuff tendonitis
- Biceps tendonitis
- Shoulder fracture
- Shoulder dislocation
- Shoulder bursitis
How is Shoulder Pain Treated?
If your shoulder pain is associated with a fall or a vehicular accident, you may need to see your healthcare provider immediately. Also, if you experience severe pain right after your injury or have pain that lasted for several weeks causing major loss of function, a visit to your doctor or physical therapist is recommended.
It is important that you rest your injured shoulder. This may last for about two to three days. You can still do certain shoulder movements while avoiding movements that induce or increase your pain. By keeping your shoulder mobile, you can help prevent stiffness or the occurrence of frozen shoulder.
While you rest, you can apply an ice pack on your injured shoulder to help minimize your pain and swelling if present. For an ice pack, wrap it with towel and apply for 15 to 20 minutes. You can continue applying the pack every two hours for the first two to three days following your injury. Avoid using hot packs or massaging the injured area during the acute stage of injury.
Few days after your injury, you may have little to no pain at all. You may now want to perform simple exercises to help loosen your shoulder joint. Performing stretching exercises is a good idea at this stage. You may also perform some strengthening exercises to help you regain your shoulder strength.
Physical Therapy Can Help You Manage your Shoulder Pain
Physical therapists are experts in the evaluation and treatment of musculo-skeletal conditions including shoulder problems, such as those enumerated above. If you visit a physical therapist or referred to one, you will be asked about your pain and other symptoms. He or she may ask about the nature of your pain and what worsens and relieves it.
Your therapist will evaluate your shoulder, specifically your range of motion (ROM) and muscle strength. Sometimes, you may be instructed to perform certain movements during evaluation. Then, he or she will perform some special tests to help determine which structure is causing your pain. All of these will play an important role in choosing the appropriate treatments for you.
Physical Therapy Treatments for Your Shoulder Pain
Once your initial evaluation is complete, your therapist will formulate a treatment plan made specifically for you based on the shoulder evaluation and your specific problems. He or she will discuss these treatments with you. The treatments that you will receive may include a combination of any of the following:
- Suggest rest
- Ice application (ice pack or ice massage)
- Heat application
- Joint mobilization
- General conditioning exercises
- Stretching exercises
- Strengthening exercises
- Patient education and training
- About the specific condition causing your pain
- Self-care of your pain and other associated problems
- About your home exercise program (HEP)
Those enumerated above will not be provided to you in one visit. Only your personal physical therapist can help you determine the appropriate treatment that's best for you.
If you are given a home exercise program, it is important to follow your therapist's instructions properly. If there's something that you do not understand or want to clarify about your treatment or HEP, don't hesitate to ask your PT. He or she will gladly answer or clarify your treatment concerns.
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