Role of Physiotherapy in Shoulder Pain Management

Millions of people with shoulder problems book physiotherapy to get the necessary pain relief. The shoulder may have been through a hefty ordeal to need treatment. The primary goal of this type of therapy is to ease the aches, better the patient’s quality of life, and improve their mobility, flexibility, and strength. 

Whether you’ve injured the spot or suffered from a forceful impact, the pain in the shoulder can feel downright draining. However, you can curb that unease and get your shoulder back on track with the right expert by your side. Here is what physiotherapy offers when it comes to shoulder pain management

The Role of Physiotherapy in Managing Shoulder Pain

Pain in the shoulders is the 3rd most typical musculoskeletal complaint reported to general practitioners. While experts estimate that 65% to 70% of all shoulder pains include the rotator cuff tendon, data shows that 5% to 40% of people without pain in the shoulders have full-thickness tears of their rotator cuff. 

Adequate therapies for shoulder pain can curb discomfort and unease. That’s where physiotherapy can come into play. Physiotherapy, also known as physical therapy, has many uses. It can help decrease the pain, mobilize specific tissues around the joint, and gently stretch the affected area. 

Specific exercises tailored towards the shoulder pain can help provide that necessary relief. In addition, the physiotherapist sometimes suggests alternative treatment, such as acupuncture and taping techniques. Both can be used to support the delicate muscles around the neck and shoulder and decrease the pain.

What Can Physiotherapy for Shoulder Pain Help With?

Knowing the exact source of the shoulder pain can help experts suggest the best type of treatment, whether the pain is from stiffness, numbness, irritation, or bad posture. At the first consultation, the physiotherapist will thoroughly examine the injured spot.

They will focus on improving shoulder function, movement, and pain relief. Physiotherapy can help if you’ve:

– Experienced shoulder pain or niggles doing sports, at work, or at home. 

– Developed pain from sitting for too long.

– Recently been involved in an accident, which damaged the shoulder.

– Had a shoulder operation.

– Been looking for prevention advice on avoiding shoulder injury.

– Been in recovery from a recent shoulder injury, and now you want to speed up the healing process.

– Taken part in a new exercise, and it’s causing you pain and discomfort.

Physiotherapy Treatments

Whether the shoulder has been hurt by overuse or sudden injury, physiotherapy will use a range of treatments to alleviate the discomfort. Therapies for shoulder pain can include:

–   Heat therapy – Ideal for soothing stiff joints and relaxing the muscles, heat therapy can help reduce discomfort. 

–   Cold therapy – Applying ice, a cold pack, or compression elevation to the affected area decreases swelling. It’s a practical choice for an acute injury. 

–   Hands-on approach – This physiotherapy for shoulder pain relies on the therapist’s help to relax the injured spot by applying pressure to the affected tissue. Pressure helps restore natural mobility and flexibility. 

–   Stretches – With a gentle push to the muscle, patients can regain their range of motion. 

–   Strengthening – When the patient needs to get stronger to avoid reoccurrence, the therapist can suggest shoulder physiotherapy exercises meant to strengthen the muscles. 

–   Nerve stimulation – Also known as electrical stimulation, this treatment is meant to strengthen the muscles and curb inflammation. 

–   Joint mobilization – By stretching the joint capsule, the patient can help boost mobility to the injured area. 

–   Therapeutic ultrasound – With the help of deep heating sessions, the tendons, muscles, and other soft tissues of the shoulder receive adequate treatment. It boosts blood flow, eases pain, and supports the natural rejuvenation process.

–   Kinesiology taping – This method improves circulation by encouraging movement.

–   Athletic taping – This method limits movement as part of the shoulder physical therapy together with other treatment methods.

How Long Does Physiotherapy Take for Shoulder Pain?

Physiotherapy for addressing shoulder pain takes 30 min a session. Most patients require 4 to 6 treatments on average. Depending on what’s causing the problem, the therapist will most likely rely on the hands-on approach. That’s in the form of joint mobilization and soft tissue massages. If necessary, other treatment methods can be implemented. 

When Will I Start Seeing Results?

It depends on the extent of the injury. Physiotherapy will decrease scar tissue and shoulder stiffness and start strengthening the weakened area. For patients after rotator cuff repairs, initial treatments will pay close attention to the pain and reduced range of motion. 

In around 4 to 6 weeks of therapy, patients will start exercising to boost their muscle strength. The strengthening process can take 12 to 16 weeks, based on the patient’s needs, desires, and goals. The ultimate goal is to restore a full range of motion, pain-free shoulder, and excellent muscle strength. But, the duration will be different for everyone.

One study evaluated the patients’ expectations of physiotherapy for shoulder pain. Based on the results, the interventions used by therapists were effective at curbing the pain. And patients had high expectations for this type of treatment approach. Overall, their pain drastically subsided over time. 


●   Is physiotherapy good for shoulder pain?

Absolutely. Physiotherapy can be a highly effective treatment approach for this kind of pain. Therapists do a thorough assessment first to find what’s causing the problem. After that, they will tailor the treatment to the patient’s needs. Some people need more time to recover, while others deal with a mild shoulder issue and will quickly get back on track.

●   Why is my shoulder pain worse by night?

Rotator cuff injury or tearing can become more apparent with natural wear and tear. Gravity can pull and stretch the rotator cuff when you lay down, causing notable pain at night. But, the worsening pain at night could also be the result of shoulder tendinopathy or bursitis. (9)

●   Should you be exercising with a painful shoulder?

It’s normal to feel apprehensive about exercising with a painful shoulder. But, if your therapist says it’s in your best interest to do specific shoulder workouts, you should do them. Simple exercises can start the healing process and give your muscles the strength to recover. Then, with the right routine, your shoulder will heal properly.

●   What kind of physiotherapy is used for shoulders?

Options like joint stabilization/mobilization, muscle strengthening, and stretching are usually a go-to choice. It is not uncommon for therapists to rely on ice, heat, or athletic taping. In addition, there is a range of treatment options at your disposal. All of which can provide a notable benefit. 

●   How to sleep with shoulder pain?

Don’t sleep on the injured shoulder. In order not to get worried about rolling over in your sleep and adding pressure to the affected area, try using a pillow that will prevent you from doing that. The pillow can act as a barrier while you enjoy a restful sleep.