Why can’t I figure out how to treat my shoulder pain?

Shoulder Pain: We carry the weight of the world on them, but don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure them out. Yet our shoulders are each incredibly complicated joint systems. The positive aspect of this complexity is that your shoulders allow your body to undertake an amazing range of activities. On the down side, when something goes wrong with one or both of them, it can be complicated to treat on your own.

Specifically, each one of your shoulders is made up of four joints, which are connected not only to one another, but form the connecting unit to your shoulder blades, collarbone and upper arms. Because of this interdependence, any problem with your shoulder often means trouble performing functions that require almost any kind of upper-body mobility.

What causes shoulder pain?

The causes of shoulder problems can stem from a sudden injury, a lifetime of poor posture, or conditions which weaken joint tissue. These conditions include various forms of arthritis and other inflammatory disorders.

Aggravating injuries include shoulder dislocation and broken arms, rotator cuff tearing, and falls or blows to your torso. In addition, shoulders tend to carry problems with other parts of your body, so that even heart disease or gallbladder problems can show up as “referred pain” in your shoulders.

What does occupational therapy do to stop shoulder pain and stiffness?

A highly trained occupational therapist will work with you on a variety of stretching and rehabilitation exercises to bring pain-free mobility back to your shoulder. A complete evaluation will verify exactly where the problem is, as well as its severity.

To be most effective, most therapy for shoulder pain will incorporate manual therapy techniques consisting of joint and soft tissue mobilization, deep tissue massage methods, and flexibility exercises. Stretching is key for improving flexibility. Your therapist will talk you through stretching moves, as well as gently manipulate your muscles.

For building strength, therapy will probably involve some form of resistance training, such as with free weights, and/or long rubber bands.