Shoulder Pain: Diagnosis, Treatment & Exercises

What is Shoulder Pain?

Aside from a big pain in the butt? Shoulder pain is common, not as common as back pain, but common because of the fact the shoulder area itself is designed to favor mobility over stability. That being the case it’s relatively easy to injure (directly or through repetitive motion/exercise) and can be impacted by a variety of joint, bone, and soft tissue-based issues. The level of pain varies depending on the cause and, well, you! Everyone’s a little different.

What are the Different Types of Shoulder Pain?

It really depends on the cause. Has an injury to your rotator cuff led to substantial inflammation in your shoulder bursae? If so, that would lead to a degree of bursitis. Has it inflamed the tendon itself? That would be tendonitis. Suffering from frozen shoulder? Did you get into a vehicle accident and fractured a shoulder bone? Is the discomfort being caused by an arthritic condition like osteoporosis or bone spurs? This is why it’s imperative to speak with a professional when there’s an issue. Here’s a sampling of some types of shoulder pain.

  • Shoulder Blade Pain
  • Pain Under Shoulder Blades
  • Sharp Pain in Shoulder when Breathing
  • Pain Directly in Shoulder Joint
  • Lateral/Bilateral Shoulder Pain

Shoulder Pain Diagnosis

For adults, impingement of the rotator cuff tendon is the most common cause of shoulder pain. Our Better Health chiropractic and physical therapy clinics have been in Alaska since 1998, so we can attest to that. Thing is, it’s also common for shoulder pain to be misdiagnosed by general practitioners as a local problem with the shoulder, when the issue is with the cervical spine or neck. We use simple physical assessments and shoulder pain tests, or even imaging technology, to diagnose and design shoulder pain treatment programs that incorporate chiropractic medicine and rehabilitative therapy.

How to Treat Shoulder Pain?

Toughen up and throw on some ointment! Just kidding, although that’s a common option along with rest and ice packs. At our clinics we’ll focus on using chiropractic adjustments when necessary to address the shoulder joint, shift it forward or backward, restore alignment and help the body heal itself. We can also employ physical therapy methods, help you address and correct any posture issues, and work with you in terms of food and exercise because they play a huge role.

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How Should I Sleep with Shoulder Pain?

Well, if you’re a side-sleeper, avoid sleeping on the side that the shoulder pain is on. Kind of a no-brainer, and easily avoidable if it’s hurting. Instead, grab something soft to hug and choose the other shoulder until you’re much better and healed. For back-sleepers, see if you can’t put a little cushion under the affected shoulder just to lend it a hand. And, if the shoulder pain comes with neck pain, a soft ergonomic pillow positioned between your neck and impacted shoulder can help as well.

Shoulder Pain Exercises

Because of how common rotator cuff injuries are in the sports and fitness worlds, you can imagine there are plenty of ways to use your injured shoulder without making it worse. It just depends on the cause of the shoulder pain, and whether you know what you’re doing! Stay away from military presses and heavy kettlebell swings. Instead, go for moves that are more for functionality and strengthening smaller muscles around the shoulder area by using light dumbbells/barbells, fitness bands, etc.

Shoulder Pain Stretches

Rather than trying to type all the great upper body and shoulder-specific stretches (many of which could be considered exercises as well), we’d like to refer you to’s article, “5 Exercises for Rotator Cuff Pain” because they included little demonstrative animated gif images so you can see the stretches in action.

  • Doorway Stretches
  • Side-Lying External Rotations
  • High-to-Low Rows
  • Reverse Flys
  • Lawn Mower Pulls