Treating Shoulder Strain

Shoulder pain can be such a mystery.  Did you sleep wrong?  Did you injure it while exercising?  Is there any actual damage?  Unlike other joints that you can easily pinpoint if something is wrong, shoulder pain can be minimal and nagging for months before it becomes worse.  If you experience shoulder pain, you are not alone.  Nearly 8 million people a year experience some sort of shoulder pain.  The first steps towards finding the cause of the pain is to have a professional evaluate your shoulder. Chiropractors are licensed health care professionals who have the training and expertise to properly identify the causes of shoulder pain.

Common Injuries

While there are numerous causes, there are many common injuries that you could be experiencing when you have shoulder pain.  It is important to remember most injuries are a result of trauma to the ligaments, muscles, and tendons as opposed to the bone. Many athletes are plagued with shoulder injuries due the overuse of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the shoulder. Repetitive action such as throwing a ball or swinging a bat can wear down the shoulders. Athletes who experience shoulder pain should not take it lightly or attempt to play through it.  Continued overuse of the area can result in long term injuries affecting the arm and hand.

One common injury that causes shoulder pain is a shoulder sprain.  A sprain is a result of a muscle or tendon tearing or stretching. While a strain can occur anywhere in the body, it is more common in the shoulder due to its mechanics.  The severity of the strain is based on a grade level. Grade 1 strains result in mild discomfort, but generally allow you to continue normal daily activities.  Grade 2 strains have more significant discomfort and can be accompanied by swelling and bruising.  Finally, Grade 3 strains have significant pain and noticeable swelling and bruising will be present.

Rotator Cuff injuries are another well known type of shoulder injury.  As one of the most important components of the shoulder, the rotator cuff holds the muscles and tendons to the bones of the shoulder together.  With this injury, it is generally difficult to lift your arms over your head.  Athletes who experience severe rotator cuff injuries may never regain their full range of motion.

woman massaging neck. Side view, copy spaceFrozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder can be incredibility debilitating and occurs in about 2% of the population; it is named for the inability of affected individuals to move their shoulders.  Frozen shoulder is the result of the shoulder capsule thickening and becoming tight.  When this happens, the bands of tissues that surround the joint also become stiff.  It typically takes six weeks to nine months for a shoulder to completely freeze.  During this time, an individual’s pain will likely increase and their  range of motion will decrease.  Once the shoulder is frozen, daily activities can be very difficult.  During the thawing stage, range of motion slowly returns.  This stage can take from six months to two years.

The exact cause of frozen shoulder is unknown.  However, there are several other diseases that could contribute to it.  Those who suffer from diabetes are at a higher likelihood of experiencing frozen shoulder.  Other diseases such as those that affect the thyroid, Parkinson’s disease, and cardiac disease can also increase the likelihood of experiencing frozen shoulder.  Frozen shoulder can also result from having the shoulder immobilized after an injury of surgery.



While some shoulder pain goes away on its own, seeking treatment may be necessary if:

  • The pain persists beyond a few days
  • The pain is recurring
  • You are unable to raise your arm
  • You are unable to carry objects with the affected arm


Oftentimes, chiropractic treatment is an effective solution  for reducing or eliminating the symptoms of shoulder injuries. Shoulder injuries can make movement difficult, but not moving the shoulder can make the condition worse. A chiropractor can help patients mobilize their shoulders by massaging the muscles and assisting them in therapeutic movements with the Active Release Technique (ART).

Research has provided evidence for the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment in relieving the symptoms of frozen shoulder. Studies of frozen shoulder have shown that patients have improved after muscle-manipulation treatments were performed by a chiropractor. Another study of 50 patients with frozen shoulder syndrome showed that a twenty-eight day course of chiropractic adjustments reduced their pain by 78%.

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