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Common Shoulder Injuries Treated By Physical Therapists

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

Does you arm hurt when you reach behind your back or over your head? Have you noticed that you get a sharp pain in the shoulder with lifting? If so, you have rotator cuff problems. In this blog we will cover some of the common rotator cuff injuries along with many other injuries that cause shoulder pain.


What Are The Different Shoulder Injuries?


physical therapy for shoulder pain
shoulder pain and injury

Almost every will have a shoulder injury at some point in their life. The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, which also makes it the most vulnerable. The shoulder joint is also the complex joint in the body. This joint is similar to a golf ball on a golf tee. The ball is much larger than the socket. Because of this, the rotator cuff plays a major roll in keeping the ball centered in the socket.


Shoulder muscle injuries are among the most common injuries treated by physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons . The shoulder is a complex joint that is responsible for a wide range of motion, making it susceptible to injury. The most common shoulder injuries include biceps tendon tears, labrum tears, rotator cuff tears, impingement and deltoid muscle strains. All of these injuries are commonly treated in physical therapy. Physical therapists work to improve strength of the shoulder muscles in order to reduce shoulder pain and improve function.


Biceps Tendon Injury


Biceps Tendon tears can occur in a few different ways. The first is an acute tear, which happens when the tendon is suddenly pulled or torn. This type of injury is often seen in athletes who participate in activities that involve a lot of overhead arm movement, such as baseball or tennis. The second type of biceps tendon tear is a chronic tear, which occurs over time and is usually the result of wear. and tear. This type of injury is more common in older adults.


Rotator Cuff Injury


Rotator cuff tears are another common type of shoulder muscle injury. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. Tears can occur when these muscles and tendons are overused or strained. Rotator cuff tears are also commonly seen in older adults.


Shoulder Labrum Injury


The shoulder labrum is a structure similar to a plunger. It is connected to the edge of the socket and keep the ball (head of the humerus) suctioned into the socket. The labrum can be injured when the shoulder is forced into a position that it is not meant to go. This often happens during a fall or when you get your arm caught.


Shoulder Impingement


Shoulder impingement occurs when there is irritation on the structures underneath the bone on the top of the shoulder (acromion). This is includes the subacromial bursa and the supraspinatus tendon. This is typically caused by repetitive stress. It is a common injury seen in swimmers, tennis players, and baseball players. Physical therapists can help to reduce this impingement by performing joint mobilization, manual therapy, and exercises to correct the position of the shoulder.


Shoulder injury
Shoulder joint with ligaments

Shoulder Arthritis


physical therapy for shoulder arthritis
shoulder replacement

Shoulder arthritis is mainly caused by normal aging and wear and tear on the joint. This is typically a slow process and there is a lot that you can do to maintain your shoulder health and slow this process. The key is to maintain range of motion and avoid losing strength. Physical therapy can help to reduce the pain associated with arthritis as well. If arthritis is progressed enough you can undergo a total shoulder replacement. After shoulder replacement your physical therapist will help you to regain the ability to use your shoulder. Shoulder replacement should be the last resort for shoulder arthritis.


Deltoid Injury


Deltoid muscle tears are another type of shoulder injury. The deltoid muscle is the large muscle that covers the shoulder joint. Tears can occur when this muscle is overused or strained. Deltoid muscle tears are less common than other types of shoulder injuries, but can still be seen in athletes and older adults.


What Physical Therapists Do?


All of these shoulder injuries can be treated in physical therapy. Most physical therapists work to improve strength and range of motion of the shoulder muscles in order to reduce pain and improve function. Your physical therapist should also help you to create a plan of care and a treatment outline to help you create the best strategy for recovery. You physical therapist may refer you to a sports medicine doctor as well to be part of your care team.


physical therapists treating shoulder pain

Common Areas To Strengthen

  • Shoulder blade: Rhomboid, low trap, mid trap

  • Rotator cuff: Supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis

  • Larger muscles: Lat, pec major

  • Arms: Biceps, triceps

Physical Therapy education is also a key part of your recovery. Your physical therapist should help you understand your injury and what caused it. This will allow you to avoid the activity that caused your injury but more importantly will allow you to understand what you can do.

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, be sure to consult with a physical therapist or orthopedic surgeon to determine the best course of treatment.



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