Shoulder Pain Relief

Pain in your shoulder can be the caused by many different things. The most common source of pain is related to the rotator cuff. There is also an area called the subacromial space, in which your bursa – a fluid filled sac for lubrication of the joint  – becomes inflammed and painful. Other causes of shoulder pain include bony abnormalities, trauma such as a fall, osteoarthritis or overuse resulting in thickening of the rotator cuff tendons in the shoulder, known as tendinitis. Most of us often incur shoulder pain due to repetitive motions and poor mechanics or posture. Shoulder pain can even keep you up at night if you tend to sleep on your side, as it continues to compress the rotator cuff and subacromial space.

The Rotator Cuff: What It Is?

The shoulder is made up of multiple joints and muscles, with the primary joint being the ball (humerus) and socket (glenoid). The shoulder girdle and arm are connected to our bodies by only the collar-bone attachment to our sternum and muscles surrounding the shoulder blade. While the shoulder is considered a ‘ball and socket’ joint, it functions more like a golf ball sitting on a tee. The four muscles that make up the rotator cuff then surround the head of the humerus and provide support and stability during movement. The most common cause of pain in the shoulder is due to an impingement of the rotator cuff and/or subacromial bursa. This is typically secondary to an underlying problem such as the shoulder blade (scapula) not functioning as it should.

The supraspinatus is one of the rotator cuff muscles that sits on top of the shoulder, and its tendon extends under the outside of the shoulder bone. Because of its location between bones, it’s a common area of injury and impingement. The tendon can become sore and swollen when it gets pinched between the bones which can also cause irritation to the subacromial bursal sac.

Frozen Shoulder: How It’s Caused

Shoulder Pain Relief Minnetonka & Wayzata, MN

Adhesive Capsulitis is the medical term for Frozen Shoulder. It’s a shoulder condition that limits the range of motion. It’s cause is difficult to explain but can be caused by long periods of inactivity, diabetes or surgery. As a result, the shoulder joint does not have proper space to rotate and move normally. Symptoms typically include stiffness, pain or swelling in the shoulder. Gradually, the ability to move the shoulder becomes less and less, and reaching for an item may even become impossible. There are multiple stages, so getting help as soon as you have symptoms is important. Soft tissue work as well as neuromuscular re-education can help to restore proper ROM and decrease pain quickly. 

How can we help?

We will perform a comprehensive exam and evaluation that includes strength and motion testing, and special orthopedic tests. This will help to determine if there is a tear in the rotator cuff, labrum, as well as the diagnosis and prognosis. An MRI is not always needed, as our orthopedic tests are very specific and it most likely won’t change the course of treatment. It is also important to assess the mobility and strength of the thoracic spine and scapular stabilizing muscles to allow for full and proper movement at the shoulder. If there is not improvement after a few session, our expert PTs will continue to reassess and refer for imaging if needed.

Your treatment may include manual therapy, range-of-motion exercises, functional training, soft tissue massage and rotator cuff strengthening exercises. Our physical therapist also help to educate you on how to improve posture and avoid future injury to the shoulder. Often, patients are given a home exercise program for lifelong protection and health of the shoulders. In the case of treating the shoulder, “no pain, no gain” is not the best practice. Pain in the shoulder usually means the structures are being irritated or injured. Our Physical therapists utilize a variety of manual techniques to promote muscle and tendon healing, shoulder and thoracic spine mobility, and neuromuscular re-education techniques to improve the stability and strength of the shoulder at end ranges. Kinesio-taping techniques are often used on the shoulder as well to assist in proper scapular movement.

For more information, or answers to your questions, contact us at Wayzata & Minnetonka, MN Centers. Or if you’re ready to get started, click here to schedule an appointment.


What is the best exercise for shoulder pain?

While there is no one-stop solution for shoulder pain, there are many exercises that can be done to help strengthen the rotator cuff region and ease the pain you are expereincing. Our physical therapists are highly trained to help improve the flexibility and range of motion in your shoulder, in addition to relieving your pain and discomfort. This will be done through an individualized treatment plan designed specifically for you, including therapeutic modalities and targeted pain-relief exercises. A couple common rotator cuff-strengthening exercises that physical therapists prescribe are wall push-ups and chair push-ups. Resistance bands can also be used to increase the strength in your shoulder and help relieve pain. However, it is important to note that if your pain is serious, these exercises should not be performed without the aid of a physical therapist.

How many types of shoulder pain exist?

When it comes to your upper extremities, injuries typically fall into two categories: acute or overuse. Acute injuries are caused by a single specific incident, such as a strain or tear. Overuse injuries are caused by excessive repetitive movements over time. Both acute and overuse injuries can range from mild to severe and can have a significant impact on daily life function. Shoulder pain can also be chronic, meaning it has persisted for 3 months or longer, despite efforts to relieve it. If you have been living with chronic shoulder pain, it is in your best interest to consult with a physical therapist as soon as possible, so they can get to the root of the problem and treat you accordingly.

Can physical therapy help shoulder pain?

Two of the biggest goals of physical therapy are 1) to alleviate your pain and 2) to improve your function. Your physical therapist will work with you to make sure that both of these are achieved throughout your physical therapy sessions. Physical therapy has been proven to manage the pain of several conditions, and in many cases, it has even been proven to eliminate shoulder pain altogether, thus making the need for harmful drugs or surgical intervention obsolete.

What are the causes of shoulder pain?

There are several underlying causes that could result in shoulder pain. For example, a sudden injury or trauma to the shoulders can cause them to become painful. Repetitive motions can also cause shoulder pain, as your muscles, joints, and tendons are working in overdrive. While there are multiple factors that could be causing your shoulder pain, some of the most common include sprains, strains, a torn cartilage, dislocation, frozen shoulder, tendinitis, and arthritis.