How To Relieve Shoulder Pain With Physiotherapy

What causes shoulder pain

Shoulder pain treatment

How to fix shoulder pain
Shoulder pain exercise
Shoulder pain can have many different causes. It can also feel different, depending on the injury and what is wrong.

Your shoulder is one of the most complex joints in your entire body. Of all your joints, your shoulder is the most flexible and mobile joint of all. Because of this, it can also sometimes be the hardest kind of injury to fix.


Rotator cuff tear

Frozen shoulder

Shoulder blade pain

Symptoms Of Shoulder Injury

When you have a problem with your shoulder, there are many different symptoms you may feel. Where you feel the pain can also sometimes provide clues as to what is wrong with your shoulder.

If you have a rotator cuff tear or bursitis in your shoulder, you may feel pain on the outside of your shoulder or front shoulder pain. Same goes for rotator cuff tendonitis. What frozen shoulder pain is like can be different for each person. Many may notice a fair amount of stiffness and pain in your shoulder. You may also have trouble sleeping.

Left or right shoulder pain

Causes of left shoulder pain can be different from right shoulder pain. When you have left shoulder pain with other symptoms such as pain in your chest, jaw or abdomen, these could be signs of something other than a shoulder injury and should be checked by your medical professional.

Shoulder blade, arm pain

Sometimes, you may notice shoulder blade pain, or around your scapula. If you have a pinched or irritated nerve, this may show up as numbness or tingling down your arm because of the pinched nerve.

Other symptoms of shoulder problems may show up during certain motions or positions:

  • You may find it hard to throw a ball or swing your golf club
  • Laying on your side may be difficult
  • If you have trouble putting on your shirt or reaching for your seatbelt, this may be because of shoulder impingement

Physiotherapy For Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain recovery can be complicated but we can help. From finding out what is causing your shoulder trouble to coming up with the right treatment and exercise plan

Get back to putting on your jacket or sleeping on your side without pain. Start playing golf or swimming again. Learn how to get shoulder pain relief or deal with frozen shoulder pain at night

Book Now

Click To Phone 604-738-1168

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Shoulder Anatomy Explained

Rotator cuff

Your rotator cuff refers to the 4 small muscles that are found around your shoulder blade. Their job is to stabilize and help control the movement of your arm and shoulder


A bursa is a fluid filled sac that sits between two different structures in your body. Their job is to help the 2 structures move and glide smoothly without causing too much friction or discomfort. You have several bursae located around your shoulder. When they get irritated and inflamed, this is called, “bursitis


A tendon is the soft tissue that connects your muscle to your bone. This is in contrast to your ligaments, which connect bones to other bones. When your tendons become strained or injured, this can lead to them being torn and inflamed, resulting in “tendonitis”.


Just as the term implies, when you have shoulder impingement this means that something is getting pinched or impinged. A common problem is rotator cuff impingement. This is when one of your small rotator cuff muscles (usually your supraspinatus) gets pinched between your upper arm bone or humerus and your shoulder blade or scapula

physiotherapy for shoulder pain

What Causes Shoulder Pain

Just as there are different colours in a rainbow, there are a number of different shoulder pain causes. Some of the most obvious ways are being involved in an accident or falling on your arm or shoulder. Other popular ways are due to repetitive motions like hitting a volleyball, swimming or swinging your golf club.


Sometimes, when an imbalance develops between your muscle groups this can also add to your rotator cuff injury. For example, having strong, tight pecs and biceps relative to your back and rotator cuff muscles can create an imbalance which can sometimes lead to rotator cuff tendonitis.


Similar to muscle imbalances, poor posture can also add to your shoulder woes. Slouching or being slumped forward for long periods staring at a screen can be a factor with shoulder problems.

This posture can create similar muscle imbalances between your front and back leading to shoulder impingement. If you have sudden shoulder pain without an injury, your posture could be a reason. Incorrect posture can add to the upper back pain between your shoulder blades.

Pinched nerve

Can a pinched nerve cause shoulder pain? Another source of shoulder pain could be coming from your neck. If you have arthritis, degeneration or disc injuries with your neck, this could irritate or pinch nerves in your neck. With a pinched or irritated nerve, you may notice pain, numbness or tingling anywhere from your neck, shoulder, arm or down to your fingers.


Can stress or anxiety cause shoulder pain? When we are stressed, this can lead to clenching and tightening of the muscles in your neck, upper back, shoulder and jaw. This extra tension can limit the mobility in your neck, upper back and shoulders and add to your shoulder pains

Types Of Shoulder Injuries

Some of the more common injuries seen are rotator cuff tear, frozen shoulder or shoulder bursitis.

Rotator cuff tear

A tear in your rotator cuff can happen from overuse or a sudden motion. The most commonly torn rotator cuff muscle is your supraspinatus, although any of them can tear as well. This is a small muscle that is found laying on the top part of your shoulder blade. When it tears, it is usually also where it can get impinged or pinched, namely under your shoulder blade and above your upper arm bone.

Shoulder bursitis

A common timeline for shoulder problems often starts with shoulder tendonitis. If your shoulder pain continues, it will often lead to shoulder bursitis where one or some of your shoulder bursae become inflamed, irritated and painful. Eventually, the bursitis in your shoulder can further turn into shoulder impingement.

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis is when you have trouble moving your shoulder in different directions. The most common would be rotating your arm outwards or external rotation. You will probably also have trouble raising your arm out to the side or lifting it forward. The easiest direction is usually bringing your arm in against your belly.

Other types of shoulder injuries can include:

  • dislocation
  • instability
  • labrum tears
  • separation
  • snapping scapula syndrome
  • subacromial bursitis
  • tendinopathy
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How Physiotherapy Can Improve Shoulder Pain

As complicated as your shoulder is, there are many things you can do to try and relieve your shoulder pain.

Targeted exercise

Many recovery programs for shoulder injuries include strengthening your rotator cuff muscles, those little stabilizers for your shoulder. Even with rotator cuff tears, you can still benefit from strengthening those muscles when it is safe to do so. There are many different ways to strengthen your rotator cuff. Some simple tools you can use include exercise bands, light weights and lacrosse balls.

Some physiotherapy exercises for shoulder and arm pain that your physio may recommend include:

  • Across the chest arm stretch
  • Doorway stretch for chest expansion
  • Neck release stretches
  • Pendulum arm swings
  • Upper back twists

Tips to improve your posture and ergonomics

Some tips on how to sleep with shoulder pain or how to relieve shoulder blade pain can include suggestions such as:

  • Avoid postures where your chin sticks out
  • Get up and move around regularly
  • If you do sleep on your side, try hugging a body pillow to prevent your top shoulder from slouching forward
  • Keep your shoulders down and back
  • Limit sleeping on your side, especially on the shoulder that hurts
  • Try sleeping on your back


With tendonitis or bursitis where inflammation is an issue, using ice can sometimes help reduce the inflammation and pain.

Get help from your chiropractor or physiotherapist for shoulder pain

For help with your shoulder injury, your North Burnaby Heights physiotherapist or chiropractor at Cedar can help guide you in the right direction. They would first diagnose where the pain was coming from. Your physio or chiro can come up with a treatment plan for you to then get your pain under control. The next step would be to create an exercise program for you to target your shoulder muscles and help your recovery.

Other treatments for shoulder pain include:

  • Injections
  • Medications
  • Surgery

Results will of course vary from person to person

Check out this easy movement that can sometimes help improve shoulder movement

Patient Review

frozen shoulder exercise Cecelia

I struggled with back and shoulder pain for most of my life. I never got it thoroughly checked out and thought it was natural to be experiencing that sort of discomfort because of my work and age. After speaking to several friends, I was referred over … and after my 5th visit, my back and shoulder pain disappeared

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I relieve my shoulder pain?

How to get rid of shoulder pain: There are many things you can try to do to ease your shoulder pain on your own. You can start by avoiding repetitive movements, have better posture, alternate use of ice and heat and avoiding laying on your sides

Can side sleeping cause shoulder pain? If you do have pain in the middle of the night, try to avoid sleeping on your sides, especially on the shoulder that hurts

What caused my shoulder pain?

Shoulder pain can be due to many different reasons. Some possible triggers for your shoulder pain can include repeated throwing motions, a fall, poor posture or muscle imbalances

How do I know if I tore my rotator cuff?

Some symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include discomfort when you lay on your injured shoulder, pain during certain arm movements and hearing noises when you move your shoulder around
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Find Out how To Relieve Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain recovery can be complicated but we can help. From finding out what is causing your shoulder trouble to coming up with the right treatment and exercise plan

Get back to putting on your jacket or sleeping on your side without pain. Start playing golf or swimming again. Learn the best physiotherapy exercises for shoulder pain

Book Now

Click To Phone 604-738-1168