How To Move Without Pain

What helps Shoulder Pain?

by Meghan Griech, PT, DPT, cert MDT, CKTP

This article takes 6 minutes to read

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Ever put on a shirt and feel a crunch in your shoulder or even worse a really sharp pain? Yup – me too. And like me I bet you were hoping it will go away on its own – heck you might still be hoping it will go away. 

Here’s the thing – that crunch was most likely your humeral head (the round top part of your arm bone) and your acromion (the top of the shoulder you can feel) coming too close together and rubbing against each other.  It use to be called impingement, but now it’s more often referred to as subacromial pain syndrome – big words to say the space between your humeral head and acromion are inflamed, causing you pain, and maybe shoulder stiffness.

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But don’t worry – the tissues are built to be able to handle it, but over time or too many times and the tissues can become inflamed and painful (Tendonitis) or worse – start breaking down and weakening (tendinosis).

Shoulder Pain & Inflammation

The inflammation of the shoulder tissues can cause swelling, which may cause stiffness and pain. This may cause you to be fearful of possibly hurting your shoulder further or causing more problems in the shoulder. People often feel like they don’t know what the right thing to do is, for fear that the wrong movement or exercise will be more damaging.

Luckily this can be fixed, YOU can fix this. Your body is built to begin the healing process almost as soon as the injury occurs. It’s during the healing process that what you do is most important; so your movements promote the correct healing within the tissue. Prolonged pain can cause continued tissue inflammation,  causing stiffness and  barriers to normal movement. 

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Where to Start

Begin by learning what hurts your shoulder and what makes it feel better. If you don’t understand what pains your shoulder – how will you fix it? You may continue to provoke the pain (intentionally or unintentionally) and delay the natural healing process. 

💪🏻Try these motions and take note of how far you can move and how painful it is. 

– Shoulder flexion: reaching forward and up in front of you (like reaching into a cabinet)
– Shoulder abduction: reaching out to the side then up as far as you can (like the snow angel motion)
– Shoulder external rotation: reaching behind your head
– Shoulder internal rotation: reaching behind your back
– Shoulder adduction: reaching towards your opposite shoulder

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Also VERY IMPORTANT for tissue injury and inflammation recovery,  you have to stop activities and movements that provoke the pain – just for now. 

What to Avoid with Shoulder Pain

Stop sleeping on that shoulder

Put that arm in the sleeve first when getting dressed

Stop provoking the pain – it will only make it last longer or worse make the pain intensify

Ice the sore spot often and while you are at it, rest your elbow on the armrest of your chair to take the weight of your arm off your shoulder. 

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As we have talked about before, the body is extremely resilient.  If given the opportunity and proper conditions, most musculoskeletal pain, including the shoulder, will get better on its own.  If your shoulder pain persists, even with active rest (doing normal activity, only avoiding things that provoke symptoms),  you may have to seek some additional help. 

A physical therapist can examine your shoulder, and evaluate whether more care is needed to help you get back to the things you want to do.  They may prescribe more specific exercises, or make recommendations to see your physician so that you can get an image to help diagnosis the problem. 

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*Disclaimer: All information in this article is intended for instruction and informational purposes. The author(s) are not responsible for any harm or injury that may result.  This information is used to supplement not replace any advice you were provided from your doctor or another medical health professional.  No guarantees of specific results are expressly made or implied with this article.

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