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Why We Get Shoulder Discomfort and Ways to Fix It

shoulder discomfort

By Abbey Fecher, DPT

Shoulder discomfort is a very common problem and can cause a lot of difficulty with many daily activities. People frequently come to physical therapy with different complaints involving the shoulder. The number one complaint: pain in and around the joint that in turn radiates up into the neck or down the arm. Some people also experience stiffness in the shoulder which causes difficulty moving the joint or overall weakness in the shoulder which can extend down into the hand. These primary complaints involving the shoulder joint contribute to difficulty with various activities we have to do every day. Think about how many times you need reach over your head like into the top cabinets in your kitchen or reaching behind your back, putting a shirt on, or reaching across your body. Shoulder pain will also likely limit your ability to lift or carry a weighted object, even something as light as a cup of coffee! But it’s not just activities this shoulder pain impacts. Your sleep can also be greatly affected, especially sleeping on the involved shoulder. This can prevent you from falling asleep altogether or cause you to wake up frequently at night due to pain. So you can see, shoulder pain, even if it’s relatively minor, can really limit your normal routine and become a serious problem if it’s not handled.

So what causes these shoulder problems? Shoulder problems can stem from many different causes. The most common cause of shoulder pain and dysfunction is poor mechanics of the joint. Movement mechanics in the shoulder joint can be negatively affected by three things:

  • Poor posture
  • Muscle weakness
  • Impaired flexibility

When the joint is not moving optimally, there is unnecessary rubbing and pressure in the joint that will cause pain and inflammation. Inflammation, especially if it lasts for more than 48 hours, will slow the tissues ability to heal and can start to affect the tendons and ligaments around the shoulder. This results in stiffness, pain and weakness. The longer you experience symptoms, the weaker and stiffer your shoulder will begin causing problems reaching, lifting and sleeping.

There are many treatment options for shoulder pain and associated daily activity limitations. People tend to assume they need surgery. However physical therapy can be a very effective treatment option to help resolve shoulder problems. A majority of shoulder conditions can be resolved with physical therapy with no need for surgery, prescription medications or painful injections. Physical therapy will help decrease your pain and any radiating symptoms that you may be experiencing, regardless of whether or now you have been experiencing pain for days or even years. Through stretching exercises, physical therapy will also help improve your range of motion restoring your ability to do things like get a glass out of a kitchen cabinet or reach behind you to get the seat belt in the car. Lastly, physical therapy will improve your posture and promote increases in strength and stability in the shoulder joint and surrounding musculature.

At Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, our therapists will fully evaluate your shoulder and associated symptoms and help restore your full function and get you back to your normal lifestyle. Don’t ignore your pain whether you’ve been dealing with it for days, weeks or even years! CLICK HERE and try a self assessment for a common shoulder condition.