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Physiotherapy Methods for Treating Shoulder Pain

Imagine feeling a slight ache or some form of tightness in your shoulder. Did you immediately rotate your shoulder in response to this feeling? Well, there is a basic physiotherapy exercise that can help you cope with the discomfort of shoulder pain. 

The Role of Physiotherapy in Relieving Shoulder Pain

Research studies have shown that physiotherapy services are one of the most effective, non-invasive, and drug-free approaches to treating various physiological conditions, including shoulder pain. With 18 to 26 percent of the population struggling with constant shoulder pain, physical therapy is in high demand. Based on the severity and nature of shoulder pain, techniques like massages, tissue mobilization exercises, wax therapy, and electrotherapy can be administered. Remember that seeking a comprehensive diagnosis and starting proper treatment at the earliest can help you cope with the condition and avoid future injuries. 

What Causes Shoulder Pain

The shoulder joint is like a super flexible but not so sturdy structure. So, if you make a weird move, put too much pressure on it, or keep doing the same thing time and again, it can get hurt easily. In addition to this, a few clinical causes include

  • Weak shoulder blades and muscles
  • Brachial plexus injury (Compression, stretching, or tearing of nerves)
  • Broken arm 
  • Broken collarbone 
  • Bursitis (Joint inflammation)
  • Dislocation 
  • Osteoarthritis (Age-related condition leading to the breakdown of joints)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Rotator cuff injuries 
  • Frozen shoulder 
  • Sprain
  • Tendinitis 
  • Cervical radiculopathy (Pinched nerve)
  • Injuries, falls, or accidents 
  • Heart attack 

What Is Physiotherapy & How Can Physiotherapy Help with Shoulder Pain

Physiotherapy or physical therapy is a healthcare profession that assesses, treats, and prevents various conditions. The goal of a physiotherapist is to restore movement and functionality in the affected area and throughout the body. Using age-old techniques like acupuncture or the latest services of hydrotherapy, experts have come a long way in understanding and developing physical therapy. In addition to treating physiological conditions, physiotherapists also focus on educating you about preventative measures or coping mechanisms post-treatment. 

In the case of shoulder pain, the first step of action is a comprehensive assessment. By obtaining a general observation and conducting physical examinations, the physiotherapist comes up with a diagnosis. Testing for pain or understanding the nature and degree of injury could be done through basic mobility tasks, joint gliding tests, and scans/X-rays. With the diagnosis, the expert designs a customized treatment plan that may consist of different physiotherapy services. Finally, being consistent and modifying the treatment plan as you progress will help reduce pain, stabilize the muscles and joints, and increase strength. 

When Can a Patient Get Benefit From Physiotherapy for Shoulder Pain

Depending on the causal factors and your medical history, physiotherapy can go a long way toward overcoming shoulder pain. For mild conditions like small rotator cuff tears, sprain, and mild to moderate arthritis, physical therapy can independently help you cope and improve your well-being. In addition to this, regular physiotherapy may prevent the requirement for surgical interventions. On the other hand, surgery accompanied by physiotherapy is recommended for severe injuries or rapidly progressing musculoskeletal and neurological conditions. Physiotherapy exercises post-surgery can aid in a speedy recovery and improve overall strength and well-being. In addition to having sessions post-surgery, your doctor may conduct sessions before surgery as well. This is mainly done to equip you with the knowledge and tools that can help you fasten your recovery process. 

What to Expect from Physiotherapy for Shoulder Pain

As mentioned earlier, physiotherapy treatment for shoulder pain would start with achieving a comprehensive diagnosis and assessment of the condition. Once the medical history, origin, and severity of the condition are determined, the physiotherapist plans and executes a customized treatment plan that may include various shoulder physiotherapy techniques. With each session, the physiotherapist will analyze the progress and responsiveness toward specific treatment modalities. Based on this, the treatment plan can be modified. The goal of this shoulder physiotherapy process is to reduce pain, stiffness, and tension and improve functionality. In addition to this, you will attain a greater level of understanding and knowledge about at-home practices, lifestyle modifications, and your physical well-being. 

Physiotherapy Treatments for Shoulder Pain

Scientific and evidence-based physiotherapy treatment for shoulder pain includes heat and cold therapy, manual therapy, stretching and strengthening exercises, joint mobilization, and nerve stimulation are part of a larger list of treatments for shoulder pain. 

Heat & Cold Therapy

Alternating between hot and cold packs is proven to provide immediate relief, reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation, and facilitate healing. However, this method is effective for acute pain or injury. Experts suggest applying a cold pack for at least 20 minutes to the affected area. Post this; heat can be applied for at least 15 minutes. As you follow this method, make sure to not lay the ice pack directly on the skin. 

Manual Therapy

Orthopedic manual therapy is a specialized form of physical therapy that involves manual examination and treatment techniques. Further, this approach follows the biopsychosocial model of care. Common treatment techniques include traction, massages, trigger point therapy, stretches, lymph drainage, etc. These methods are considered to be painless and functional in facilitating tissue repair and modeling, muscle inhibition, reducing nociceptive activity, and creating a positive placebo response. 


Gentle stretching and strengthening exercises, weight-bearing exercises, and resistance exercises focus on reducing pain and improving physical strength and functionality. These exercises are modified based on the severity of the injury and your limited range of motion. Further, the goal of various shoulder physiotherapy exercises is to improve posture, strengthen the upper extremities, and enhance the overall range of motion. 

Nerve stimulation

Recent research suggests that Peripheral Nerve Stimulation (PNS) is an effective method for treating acute or chronic shoulder pain. The procedure uses electric currents that target the axillary and suprascapular nerves for pain relief. A small-electric device is placed next to a peripheral nerve. As this device produces electric currents you may feel mild tingles. This sensation eventually replaces the pain. In addition to this, you can control the intensity of stimulus through a controller or an app on your phone.

Joint mobilization 

Shoulder mobilization targets all four joints of the shoulder including the glenohumeral joint, the scapulothoracic joint, the sternoclavicular joint, and the acromioclavicular joint. Common techniques like medial/lateral glides, upward and downward rotation, diagonal patterns, and superior/inferior glides are administered. These techniques help improve the range of motion, reduce pain and inflammation, and lower the risk of future injuries. 

The Effectiveness of Physiotherapy in Shoulder Pain

At Physiotattva, experts are trained in the various techniques of physiotherapy for shoulder pain mentioned above. With early diagnosis and treatment, you can achieve a speedy recovery. Further, based on your needs, treatment can be conducted in the clinical setting or the comfort of your home. Our goal is to assess, treat, and equip you with essential practices for improving your well-being.

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