Don’t let shoulder pain put you on the sidelines! Try rest, cold or warm compresses, drugs to counter inflammation, and exercises like push-ups and internal rotations using resistance bands or light weights to strengthen shoulder muscles for several weeks—and if that doesn’t work, you’ll need therapy.
Physical therapists can target persistent pain and improve sports performance with strengthening and stretching exercises to improve posture, flexibility, and motion. “Bring your sports gear to the initial visit to demonstrate the positions and activities that are especially bothersome,” advises physical therapist E. Anne Reicherter, spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association.
For example, softball players who frequently throw overhead can irritate and inflame gliding surfaces between the shoulder blade (scapula) and chest wall—a common problem called scapulothoracic bursitis, explains Michael S. George, M.D., spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and clinical assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine.
Other causes of the painful condition include poor posture and acute injury.
According to Dr. George, home exercises can often relieve scapulothoracic bursitis by improving upright posture and strengthening the muscles around the scapula and the shoulder. For the serratus anterior muscle in the upper back, perform push-ups with shoulder blades squeezed together. For the subscapularis muscle in front of the shoulder, try internal rotation exercises using resistance bands or light weights. When home remedies aren’t enough, doctors can use steroid injections to relieve persistent bursitis (surgery is rarely needed) and rule out other causes of shoulder pain.
Click here for helpful trigger point maps from the Pain Clinic to discover what’s causing your shoulder soreness.
Benefits of Physical Therapy
1. Targeted examination—Your therapist will ask about your symptoms and goals and conduct a thorough examination to identify any difficulty with posture, flexibility, strength, joint mobility, and movement that may contribute to chronic shoulder pain.
2. Targeted treatment—Based on the exam findings, you and the therapist will develop a customized rehab plan that may include manual therapy to improve joint and muscle motion, tips to care for your shoulders and upper back, and an overall physical fitness program.
- E. Anne Reicherter