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Physical Therapy Exercises for Shoulder Pain

Intro to Shoulder Pain

Many causes of shoulder pain range from nerve damage to cartilage damage, muscle or tendon strain, or tears. Not only are the shoulders a complicated joint, but they can have a significant effect on the surrounding areas like your back, neck, or arm.

To prevent a shoulder injury from worsening or causing damage in the surrounding areas due to overcompensation, it is essential to seek help. A physical therapist can guide you through exercises and stretches to help you decrease pain and gain strength. Not only can a PT help you recover from a shoulder injury, but they can also teach you how to be active and use your shoulder without risking any injury.

This can help prevent problems with your shoulder in the future and injuries in your arm, back, and neck. Physical therapy is one of the best routes toward pain-free movement when recovering from a shoulder injury. 

Methods for Treating Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is common for many people, but it often goes untreated or is treated too late. Many shoulder injuries require diagnosis and proper treatment from a physician or a physical therapist. However, some home remedies can help decrease shoulder pain until you can make an appointment to see a physical therapist.

One of the first steps to easing shoulder pain is to stop any activities that include repetitive motions that may have caused the injury. By continuing, the injury can worsen or cause permanent damage. Some medications like over-the-counter pain or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications can help make healing more comfortable. Another home remedy that often helps with shoulder pain is compression. A cold compression bandage or a shoulder wrap helps decrease the swelling and pain.

Heat therapy is also essential as it helps relax the muscles and loosen the shoulder if it is stiff or has decreased mobility. While rest is vital to recovering from any injury, maintaining some form of beneficial movement is also crucial, especially with joint injuries like the shoulder. Exercises and stretches for the shoulder help prevent any additional stiffness, strengthen the muscles, and increase the range of motion. Physical therapy is one of the best methods to find the root cause of your shoulder pain and discover personalized solutions to help you through your recovery.

Relieving Pain and Tightness

Learning how to relieve any discomfort or stiffness in your shoulder is a simple process under the guidance of a trained professional. If you are experiencing pain, it may be your first instinct to rest the injury. However, as previously stated, it is essential to maintain movement through stretching and careful exercise to prevent a condition from worsening. Stretches like shoulder rolls, child’s pose, and neck stretches can be used to reduce any tightness in the shoulder and relieve any pain caused by the stiffness.

Any stretches or exercises done with an injury must be carefully done and guided by a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant. If done incorrectly, stretches and exercises for shoulder pain can further injure the area and increase pain and tightness. However, when done correctly, physical therapy for shoulder issues is the best way to reduce pain with movement and allow you to resume activity unencumbered by an injury. If you are noticing stiffness or pain in your shoulder, here are some exercises that can help:

  • Pendulums: hold on to a countertop or table with your unaffected arm while you bend over and allow your painful shoulder to hang completely relaxed below you. Gently sway your body back and forth, allowing your arm to follow the momentum of your body. You can do this exercise for 1-2 minutes twice a day. 
  • Active-Assisted Range of Motion with a cane: lay down on a bed or other flat surface. Hold on to a cane or a broomstick with both hands, palms facing down as you grip. With both hands simultaneously, raise your hands (holding the cane) as far as you can above your head. Be sure to stop if you have pain. Repeat this for 15 repetitions a few times a week. 
  • Doorway stretch: Stand with your arm in front of a door frame. Lift your arm to shoulder height and bend your elbow to 90 degrees. Place your forearm on the door frame as you take a step into the doorway. You should feel a stretch in the front of your chest and into your shoulder. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times, but stop if you have pain.

Tips to Avoid Injury

Ultimately, shoulder injuries can typically be prevented through stretches and exercises. Strengthening your shoulder and maintaining flexibility and range of motion can help the shoulder resist damage, especially those related to overuse. It is essential to know your own body and avoid any activities or sports that have caused an injury or discomfort in the past. If you are already prone to shoulder injuries, make sure to prevent or at least minimize any activities requiring repetitive shoulder motions.

This type of movement can damage the shoulder joint, surrounding muscles, and soft tissues. By building strength and mobility in your shoulder, a physical therapist can guide you to move in a way that minimizes injury risk while improving current conditions. This leads to a healthier and more active lifestyle and equips you with helpful knowledge for the future.

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Vandalia, OH Phone: 937-890-9235

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Fort Collins, CO Phone: (970) 475-8651


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San Antonio TX Phone: 888-709-7096

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San Antonio, TX Phone: 877-348-4975

Rehab Therapy Works

Spring Hill, FL Phone: (352) 597-8996

Lake Centre for Rehab

The Villages, FL Phone: (352) 728-6636

Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy

Lexington, KY Phone: (859) 264-0512

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Louisville, KY Phone: (502) 442-7697

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Tallahasee, FL Phone: (850) 877-8855


Louisville, KY & Evansville, IN Phone: (888) 591-8280

Physical Therapy Central

Oklahoma City, OK Phone: (866) 866-3893

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El Paso, Texas Phone: (915) 581-9606

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Baton Rouge, LA Phone: (225) 206-5292


Fort Worth, TX Phone: 888-658-8483

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Tulsa, OK Phone: (866) 866-3893

Capitol Physical Therapy

Madison, WI Phone: (608) 527-0602

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Raleigh, NC Phone: (866) 922-0012

Proactive Physical Therapy Specialists

Portland, OR Phone: 866-922-1175

RET Physical Therapy Group

Seattle, Washington Phone: 844-708-7982

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Pappas OPT Physical, Sports and Hand Therapy

Providence, RI Phone: (401) 205-3423

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