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Shoulder Pain: What, Why and How?

The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the human body allowing your arm to move forward, backward, in circular motion and up above your head. Due to its high mobility, shoulder pain is quite common and will affect most people at some point in their lives.

Commonly reported shoulder pain symptoms include:

  • Pain in the shoulder and upper arm

  • Shoulder pain radiating down to the hand

  • Pain in the shoulder blade

  • Shoulder pain when lifting

  • Difficulty raising your arm

  • Difficulty reaching overhead

  • Difficulty sleeping or lying on your shoulder

  • Tight shoulder muscles

Shoulder instability

Shoulder pain can be caused by some form of shoulder instability due to joint laxity (extreme flexibility). This is often seen in the younger population and with gymnastics type athletes. In this instance, the shoulder pain can develop from lack of static stability, (stability coming from the shoulder’s ligaments and bone structure) with heavy loading or with repetitive use. Focusing on dynamic stability, provided by strong shoulder muscles, is crucial to a successful outcome and a long-term stable shoulder.

Shoulder tightness and imbalance

Around middle age, many people develop muscle imbalance where some muscles become weak while others get very tight. They will report a feeling of pinching in the shoulder during use or limited available movement. Shoulder muscle imbalance can be caused by repetitive overhead activities (swimming, painting, plastering, etc.) or poor posture (desk work, text neck, slouching). In these situations, commonly there is increased tightness in the upper shoulder area (upper traps, levator scapulae) and weakness in the muscles that bring your shoulder down (middle and lower traps) which leads to an inadequate movement pattern between your arm and your shoulder blade. Over time, improper use of the shoulder muscles may cause a shoulder impingement or worse, a rotator cuff tear.

How can your sports physiotherapist help?

After you’ve injured your shoulder, your physiotherapist will assess and determine the cause of the shoulder pain. They will screen for any serious condition and identify the contributing factors to determine the best treatment options for your condition. One of the best physiotherapy management tools for a sore shoulder is to begin a well-structured exercise program which may include stretches and strengthening activities. Once the shoulder pain begins to resolve, exercises will be progressed to target specific movements and exercises so you can begin to return to your favorite activities.

Early intervention is key. Don’t Settle. Reach Your Goals.



  1. Association, P. A. (n.d.). Shoulder Pain. Retrieved from Physiotherapy Alberta College + Association:

  2. Physiotherapy, C. S. (2019, September 25). Causes of shoulder pain. Retrieved from Chartered Society of Physiotherapy:


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