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Shoulder Pain and Physiotherapy

Causes of Shoulder Pain

There are many reasons why you could be experiencing pain in your shoulders. Listed are a few of the common causes of shoulder pain

  • Muscle tears (such as rotator cuff tears)
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Tendinitis/ Tendinopathy (Inflammation of tendons)
  • Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive capsulitis)

These conditions can develop for a variety of reasons, including poor posture, muscle imbalances, and overuse/ or the performance of repetitive tasks, that lead to wear and tear in and around the shoulder joint.

How Can Physiotherapy Help?

Physiotherapy can help to reduce pain, improve strength, and stop further damage to the joint and surrounding muscles and tendons. Physiotherapy is often used in order to prevent or delay shoulder surgery (e.g. in some rotator cuff tears), or in cases where surgery is not an option. It can help to decrease inflammation, and pain, or to train other muscles in the area to assist in maintaining shoulder function. If you have had surgery Physiotherapy is usually required afterwards. Surgeons will often have developed a protocol for patients and Physiotherapists that helps to guide treatment. Physiotherapy after surgery helps to regain strength and function in your shoulder.


During your first session your Physiotherapist will discuss your symptoms, history, and goals before deciding on an appropriate treatment plan. Following are some examples of the kinds of treatments that might be used.

  • Finding a balance between rest and activity is important in managing symptoms. This will differ from person to person as not all conditions are the same, so discuss it with your Physiotherapist.
  • Physiotherapists often use a variety of machines/ modalities to help to ease your pain, reduce inflammation, or improve movement. Interferential, ultrasound or TENS machines are examples of these.
  • Heat or ice can also be used to achieve pain relief, depending on your condition. Your Physiotherapist will advise you of which of these is most appropriate.
  • Massage and other Manual therapy (such as joint mobilisations) can also help to alleviate symptoms and improve joint function. Physiotherapists often use such techniques in combination with exercise and other treatments
  • Exercises are often used as part of Physiotherapy treatment. They can be used to improve strength, control and endurance, around the shoulder. Exercise can also help in reducing pain, and minimising the risk of painful flare-ups. Your Physiotherapist will discuss with you which type of exercise is best suited to you and your condition , this could also include Hydrotherapy, Clinical Pilates or Tai Chi.
  • Simple equipment such as elastic tubing or pulleys is often used when performing exercises. Your Physiotherapist will provide you with any equipment they believe would be beneficial for your treatment.
  • Braces, slings, or strapping techniques can also assist in reducing pain, and improving stability during your daily activities. Your Physiotherapist will discuss these options with you if it’s appropriate for your condition.


Exercise is an important part of your treatment. It can help manage pain, increase strength and improve the function of your shoulder. Your Physiotherapist will prescribe exercises, or stretches on an individual basis, depending on your condition. Your Physiotherapist will discuss with you, which of these exercises are appropriate for you, and then show you how to perform them safely and effectively. Often your Physiotherapist will ask you to perform some exercises at home, in order to complement what you do your Physiotherapy sessions. Home exercises programs are very important, as it gives you the best chance of achieving your goals, and improving your function.

A blog on Shoulder dislocations in rugby league can be found below:

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May Issue 2024

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