Physiotherapy For Shoulder Pain: 4 Common Causes And Treatment

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, and we rely on it to be able to do a number of activities such as reaching, lifting, gardening, or playing sports. Given that the shoulder is a very mobile joint, it can be easily injured.

If you suffer from a shoulder injury, you may have pain at night and find it difficult to lie on that side to sleep. The shoulder may feel really stiff, or it may feel unstable as if it’s about to pop out of the socket. You may feel weak in the shoulder muscles, making it hard to perform everyday activities, particularly reaching behind your back or overhead activities.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

  • Lifting something too heavy at an awkward angle
  • Lifting a heavy object away from the body or above shoulder height
  • Repetitive movements that place stress on the shoulder
  • Reaching behind the backseat of the car to lift or place heavy items

1. Rotator Cuff Injuries

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles surrounding the shoulder that work to lift and rotate the arm, as well as support and stabilise the joint.

Injury to the rotator cuff can be acute such as falling onto an outstretched arm, lifting something too heavy, catching a falling object, or repetitive overhead work.

The rotator cuff can also be injured due to degenerative wear and tear. As we get older and are less active, tendons under degeneration and start to lose strength. This means they can be torn more easily. Repetitive stress on the shoulder can increase the risk of developing a tear.

Physiotherapy can help with rotator cuff injuries. Your Physiotherapist will use manual therapy techniques to help improve your range of motion and relax the muscles. You will be prescribed with a comprehensive exercise program consisting of stretches and strength work. The stretches will help to improve your flexibility and range of motion, and the strength work will help to restore function and prevent further injury. Your physiotherapist will give you advice on posture, desk setup, sleeping positions, and modifying your daily activities to minimise the stresses placed on the shoulder.

2. Shoulder Instability or Dislocations

Shoulder instability is common in young people and athletes. When the muscles and ligaments that hold the shoulder together are stretched beyond their normal limits, the shoulder can become unstable. Certain motions used in tackling, throwing, pitching or bowling can place large forces on the shoulder that can overstretch the ligaments. People describe the feeling that the shoulder is loose or feels weak. When the ligaments become too loose or completely tear, a shoulder subluxation or dislocation can occur. This is commonly caused by falling onto an outstretched hand, a violent twisting motion, or contact with arms overhead.

Physiotherapy for shoulder instability will focus heavily on restoring strength and control back into the muscles so that the shoulder is better supported. Your physiotherapist will assess your strength and biomechanics in order to design an exercise program individually tailored to your needs. The program will involve strengthening, stability, and endurance work.

3. Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder can be triggered by trauma, previous shoulder injury, post-operatively, or it can arise without warming. The joint capsule tightens and becomes inflamed, forming scar tissue and adhesions which result in a very stiff and painful shoulder. It also results in very limited range of motion.

Physiotherapy treatment aims to speed up recovery with soft tissue massage to loosen up the muscles, mobilisation of the joint itself, and exercise to help with strength and flexibility. Your physiotherapist will give you stretches to help improve your range of motion and relieve the stiffness. As your pain subsides you will then begin strengthening and endurance work.

4. Sports Injuries

Shoulder injuries can occur with many different sports, including tennis, cricket and swimming. If the muscles, ligaments or tendons are not working well together or coordinating properly, pain and inflammation can arise.

Physiotherapy is beneficial in treating sports related shoulder injuries, as well as helping to prevent them from occurring. Your physiotherapist will conduct a thorough assessment to identify any muscle imbalances or weaknesses. They can then prescribe you with an individually tailored exercise program to target your strength deficits as well as work on flexibility, stability, and endurance. Your physiotherapist will also give you advice on your training load, as any increases must be gradual to avoid overloading the shoulder. They will also be able to analyse your technique, liaise with your coach, and offer advice on what you can change to avoid placing too much stress on the shoulder.

If you are suffering from a shoulder injury and would like some help, feel free to contact us! Give us a call on 9875 3760 or email

If you need physical therapy to relieve
your pain, and would like some more
information, feel free to contact us!

Give us a call on (02) 9875 3760 or email We would
be more than happy to help you.