Shoulder pain is a common experience among athletes and non-athletes as well. Population surveys show that 18-26% of adults experience shoulder pain at some point. Symptoms can hinder your ability to complete tasks at work and home. It can also lower your productivity. Failure to treat your shoulder pain quickly can also lead to job loss or early retirement.
Unfortunately, your shoulder is exposed to heavy physical demands and a wide range of motion daily. That means it’s susceptible to various issues, including osteoarthritis, tears, tendinitis, adhesive capsulitis, and more. Learn more about these common types of shoulder pain and how we treat them below.
Adhesive Capsulitis (Frozen Shoulder)
Adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder, is the stiffening of the shoulder joint. It often occurs due to scar tissue and can cause loss of motion. Other possible causes include the following:
- Autoimmune reactions
- Reaction after surgery
- Immobilization of the arm
- Other conditions like bursitis, arthritis, tendinitis, or rotator cuff tears
Studies show that adhesive capsulitis affects about 3-5% of Americans and is more prevalent in women and adults over 45. In addition, 20-30% of people who have had a frozen shoulder report that it also gets to the other shoulder.
Usually, people who have a frozen shoulder experience loss of movement and worsening pain. However, symptoms vary depending on the stage. Our therapist will diagnose your condition to determine your stage. Here is how adhesive capsulitis feels in each stage.
Stage 1: “Prefreezing”
At this stage, adhesive capsulitis is just developing. However, it is the first suspect if you have experienced pain worsening for 1 to 3 months. Other symptoms of a frozen shoulder at this stage include pain that increases when you reach behind your back or raise your arm.
Stage 2: “Freezing”
During this stage, the condition persisted for 3-9 months. By now, you are probably experiencing more pain (especially at night) and progressive loss of shoulder movement.
Stage 3: “Frozen”
By now, symptoms have persisted for 9-14 months, and you are experiencing increased pain and a limited range of shoulder movement.
Stage 4: “Thawing”
Your symptoms have persisted for about 12-15 months, but there is a significant decrease in pain. However, you still can’t move your arm completely, but the range of motion is improving rapidly.
In most cases, patients seek treatment for a frozen shoulder at the freezing or early frozen stage. During your first physical therapy appointment, expect our doctors to evaluate your health history to rule out other conditions. After that, the therapist will perform a capsular pattern to identify a specific pattern in your limited range of motion. You can also expect our therapists to conduct further tests to rule out other conditions, such as autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and thyroid disorders.
Once our doctors determine your stage, they will tailor-make an exercise and treatment program for your specific needs. For stages 1 and 2, our therapists will use ice and heat treatment modalities, manual therapy, exercises, pain medication, and education to help you overcome the pain. Our therapists will also educate you on the best care and use of the affected arm.
Treatment during stage 3 involves restoring your complete range of motion. As such, our doctors will introduce strengthening and stretching exercises. We may also use manual therapy to loosen up your stiff tissues and muscles.
In stage 4, our therapists will strive to boost your overall wellness. To do that, they will introduce new and intense stretching and strengthening exercises. They may also perform manual therapy and address movements and tasks required for your work and recreational life.
Osteoarthritis is the inflammation of the shoulder joint due to deterioration. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that millions of Americans have some form of osteoarthritis. OA hinders daily activities and can even lead to disability. Fortunately, physical therapy helps reduce pain and restore movement. PTs will also educate you about its causes and healthy lifestyle choices.
While the cause of OA is still a matter of debate, research shows that aging is the primary factor. The other OA risk factors include:
- Past injury
Learn more about ways to prevent shoulder pain while working from home.
The typical symptoms of OA include:
- Pain and stiffness
- Crunching, cracking, or creaking
- Increased bone growth
- Stiffness after lying or sitting for long
To rule out other conditions, our therapists will start by evaluating your medical history. After that, they will check for the typical symptoms of OA. From there, our therapists will ask you to perform various movements to identify activities you are struggling with. They will also order an X-ray and other advanced imaging tests to be sure.
Physical therapy is one of the most effective treatments for osteoarthritis, as it can help you avoid pain medication and surgery. Your individualized treatment plan for OA might include manual therapy, an exercise program, education, and an at-home training program.
Rotator Cuff Tear
Rotator cuff tears often occur due to heavy lifting, trauma, or repetitive arm movement. Unsurprisingly, it’s common in a profession involving repetitive arm movements, such as heavy labor and sports. Rotator cuff tears are usually painful and can hinder your daily activities.
Rotator cuff tears are categorized into partial or complete thicknesses based on severity. Full-thickness tears are the most painful and occur from top to bottom. As the name suggests, partial-thickness tears don’t extend all the way through.
Tears are also categorized as chronic and acute. Chronic rotator cuff tears develop slowly due to repeated movements, whereas acute tears occur suddenly due to an accident. Most people who develop chronic rotator cuff tears have a history of shoulder impingement syndrome.
Usually, people with rotator cuff tears report these symptoms:
Our therapists will evaluate your symptoms, ability to use the affected arm, and medical history. They might also conduct imaging tests to be sure.
Once we diagnose a rotator cuff tear, our team will work with your orthopedist to determine whether you need surgery. If surgery is not required, we create a personalized treatment plan to help you overcome the injury and return to your everyday life.
Other Shoulder Injuries We Treat
Apart from these injuries and conditions, our therapists can also develop personalized treatment programs to help you overcome other injuries, such as:
- Rotator cuff tendonitis
- Acromioclavicular (AC) joint injuries
- Biceps tendinitis
- Shoulder labral tears