Shoulder Pain Physical Therapy – About PT for Shoulder Pain


If you have shoulder pain, you may have difficulty doing overhead movements. In most cases, even the simple task of putting on your shirt or jacket makes it difficult for you. Physical therapy can help you manage your shoulder pain and help you get back to your original level of activity as quickly and safely possible.

Shoulder pain has many causes and expert evaluation by your doctor or physical therapist is necessary to find out what is causing your pain.

Physical Therapy for Shoulder Pain – Your First Visit

Your physical therapist will likely ask about your symptoms, the events that led to your having shoulder pain and any previous shoulder problems. In addition, your therapist will perform a thorough evaluation of your shoulder joint and other associated structures to find out or rule out certain shoulder conditions.

Your therapist will then formulate a treatment plan specifically made for you based on the PT evaluation and your needs and goals.

Physical Therapy Treatment Options for Shoulder Pain

There are many physical therapy treatment options for shoulder pain, and depending on your particular shoulder problem, treatments may include:

  • Ice pack or hot pack application

    Your physical therapist will decide whether to use an ice pack or a hot pack on your shoulder injury. In general, ice pack application is used when swelling or inflammation is present. Ice helps decrease your swelling and relieve your pain.

    A hot pack may be used when swelling has subsided or before performing stretching exercises.

  • Shoulder Stretching Exercises

    Your therapist will teach you self-stretching exercises, which he or she will advise you to continue doing when you get home. Stretching can help decrease your joint and muscle stiffness if present.

  • Strengthening Exercises

    Pain can sometimes lead shoulder muscle weakness. Because of pain, you may not want to move your shoulder that can lead to weakness.

    Your physical therapist will teach you exercises to improve your shoulder muscle strength and improve blood flow to your shoulder, thereby, encouraging faster healing.

    Your PT will guide you on how to effectively perform the exercises, either with or without weights. As your muscle strength improves, the weight load or repetitions will be gradually increased.

  • Electrotherapeutic Modalities

    Electrotherapeutic modalities, such as ultrasound and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator (TENS) may be used by your physical therapist. An ultrasound is a heating apparatus that can help soften shoulder tissues and improve circulation. It may be used before stretching.

    TENS application allows small amounts of current to flow through your skin that is believed to provide short-term pain relief.

  • Patient Education

    Your physical therapist will provide you with information about your particular shoulder problem. He or she will also give you tips on how to prevent repeat shoulder injury. Your therapist will also provide you with home instructions on how to manage your shoulder pain. Be sure follow your physical therapist’s instructions.

There are other treatment options that only your personal physical therapist will be able to provide. The treatment options enumerated here are general physical therapy treatments and should not be used to formulate your own therapy. Only your physical therapist or doctor can provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan.

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Page Revised: July 27, 2014