Beat Shoulder Pain

By Courtney Gum BAppSc (Physiotherapy)

Shoulder pain is one of the most common problems that people see Physiotherapists for.

Structurally….. shoulder pain can come from the rotator cuff, biceps tendon, bursa, shoulder joint degeneration, soft tissue injury/degeneration within the shoulder joint (labrum). Other structures can in fact refer as shoulder pain, such as stresses from the neck, thoracic spine or even irritation of nerves around the neck and shoulder. This is by no means an exhaustive list but a good place to start.

Mechanisms… these structural changes can come about for a number of reasons:

  • Trauma or an injury – these are relatively simple to treat and manage.

More commonly however the causes of shoulder pain are more complex.

  • A past shoulder injury pre-disposes an individual to arthritis.
  • Muscle imbalances caused by posture, work or leisure activities or previous injuries can all contribute to poor muscle patterning. In more simple terms, some muscles work more and some less to try and avoid potential pain.
  • Swelling in itself has the effect of turning off particular muscles. Let’s say that you have a big day pruning trees at home and you irritate your shoulder tendons in the process, this can switch off certain muscles – because the body isn’t perfect, this can sometimes set up ongoing shoulder issues.
  • Maybe you spend a lot of time bent over at a computer and you keep your chest muscles in a shortened position, so that when you go to use your shoulder you aren’t using the front and back of your shoulder in a balanced way.
  • Possibly you are hypermobile and this contributes to your pain
  • Maybe you are simply overtraining and not allowing your shoulder to regenerate and repair

What to do….

  • Firstly, it is a good thing to understand why you have your pain, what factors in your life may be contributing, how you can make changes within your busy lifestyle and work commitments to reduce your pain.
  • Pain relieving techniques (heat, ice, strength exercises, mobility exercises, medication, anti-inflams, relax, rest, etc.)
  • Activity modification
  • Self management: self massage, mobility exercises, muscle exercises
  • Manual therapy
  • There are times when you may need to be referred for further investigations such as an MRI or referral to a medical specialist such as an orthopaedic surgeon.

The easy part….

Making a diagnosis is the easy part…

The hard part….

The hardest part about getting rid of shoulder pain is that often patients are time poor and have many competing commitments. Often shoulders require muscle retraining along with advice on how to avoid painful activities, which is hard if you are a builder and earn a living lifting and using tools overhead for example.

Therapists have a wealth of knowledge and experience to impart. There are also adjunctive treatments (like massage, joint mobilization, dry needling, etc. to help with your symptoms). With a thorough assessment and understanding of a patients’ circumstances, shoulder pain can be improved in the long term.

Feel free to contact us for advice or an assessment if you have been experiencing shoulder pain.





Courtney Gum

Courtney Gum

Principal Physiotherapist

Courtney Gum BAppSc (Physiotherapy) – Kinetic Balance Physiotherapy Practice Principal at Kinetic Balance Physiotherapy.

Courtney has developed a wide range of Physiotherapy skills and a complex understanding of the human body.

She has  worked in several highly regarded private practice Physiotherapy clinics prior to opening Kinetic Balance Physiotherapy in Noarlunga.