Living with shoulder pain? A physiotherapist can help.

One of the joints in the body that has a wide range of flexibility and mobility is the shoulder. The shoulder enables us to do various activities in our day to day lives. It helps us to lift and reach for things that we need. It also allows us to enjoy recreational activities. A lot of sports activities require hard work from the shoulder. Hence, it is common for people who have an active lifestyle to experience an injury to the shoulder at some point in their lives. Physiotherapy for the shoulder is crucial to properly manage and treat shoulder pain and injuries.

Understanding the shoulder’s function

The shoulder is made up of different parts, but its foundations depend on two primary bones:

  • Humerus or the upper arm bone
  • Scapula or the shoulder blade

Surrounding these bones are muscles and ligaments that connect the bones together. Below are the other parts of the shoulder and their function:

  • The acromion – This is the bone located at the shoulder blade’s top outer edge. It works to provide stability to the shoulder joint.
  • The rotator cuff – A group of muscles and tendons make up the rotator cuff. This set of muscles and tendons connect the arm bone to the shoulder and enables movement.
  • The humeral head – Found at the top part of the humerus or arm bone, this part of the shoulder is formed like a ball and makes up one part of the shoulder’s ball-and-socket joint. Its main function is to support the shoulder and allow the arms to make various movements.
  • The cartilage – The cartilage serves as a smooth surface that covers the end of the shoulder’s connecting bones. It allows the bones to move freely without pain as it functions as a cushion in between the bones.
  • The glenoid – This is a hollow cavity that can be found at one side of the shoulder blade, connected to the humeral head. It serves as the humeral head’s partner and plays an integral role in shoulder mobility.
  • The joint capsule – This sheet of fibers wrap around the joint. It functions as a stabilizer for the joint and is also malleable enough to enable the shoulder to move without hindrances.
  • The synovium – This is a sac filled with fluid that keeps the shoulder joint lubricated during movement.

Factors that may cause shoulder injury or pain

While the range of mobility and flexibility of the shoulder is wide, there is always a limit to it. Oftentimes we tend to exceed the shoulder’s limits and end up getting injured or being in pain. Below are the common actions that cause of shoulder problems:

  • Constant pressure or stress placed on the shoulder
  • Lifting heavy objects at an angle that is risky or awkward
  • Lifting heavy objects in a motion extends the shoulder away from the body
  • Lifting heavy objects over the shoulder
  • Overextension of the arm and shoulder when reaching for an object
  • Overuse of the arm and shoulder causing inflammation or injury

The careless actions above can also result in accidents that cause extreme and damaging impact to the shoulder. All of which can result specifically to these conditions:

  • Broken arm or shoulder bone
  • Dislocated shoulder
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Inflammation of bursa sacs or tendons
  • Torn cartilage
  • Torn rotator cuff
  • Pinched neck or shoulder nerve

Aside from these, there are also other medical conditions that can lead to shoulder pain including:

  • Arthritis
  • Heart attack
  • Spinal cord injury

When should you see a doctor?

It is important that you seek a doctor’s help if the pain in your shoulder causes the following:

  • Bruising
  • Feeling of heat and swelling surrounding the joint area
  • Fever
  • Movement limitations or inability to move
  • Persistent pain that lasts for more than a week despite resting and treatments provided at home

A more crucial thing to remember is to immediately get medical attention or rush to an emergency room when the shoulder is caused by an accident and there is exposed tissue in the area, bleeding, and swelling.

Shoulder pain that is not related to a physical action or injury should be dealt with urgent care as this can be an indicator of a heart attack.

How is shoulder pain diagnosed?

To diagnose shoulder pain, expect to be asked about your medical history and undergo a physical examination during your doctor’s consultation. Your doctor will check and feel if there is any tenderness or swelling in your shoulder. You will also be asked to move your arm in certain ways in order to evaluate the mobility and stability of your shoulder and joints.

An MRI or X-ray test may be requested by your doctor to further assess the condition of your shoulder and give an accurate diagnosis.

Are there first aid or home treatments that can help relieve shoulder pain?

Applying first aid or home treatments can be really helpful in alleviating shoulder pain while waiting to see a doctor. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid using your injured shoulder and allow it to rest until you have consulted with a doctor.
  • Apply cold compress on the injured area for 15 minutes for about three to four times in the next two days.
  • Take OTC oral medication that can help minimise the pain and swelling in the shoulder, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Where should you go for management and treatment of shoulder pain or injury?

Physiotherapists are medical practitioners trained to work with patients needing management or treatment for certain conditions or injuries that affect a part of the body’s ability to function properly. They develop treatment programs that are customised according to a patient’s condition with the end goal of restoring their ability to move at the maximum level.

To achieve wellness for their patients, physiotherapists usually incorporate the following activities in their management and treatment plans:

  • Body exercises and stretching
  • Coaching about posture or how to properly perform certain tasks
  • Joint manipulation
  • Massages

They may also use medical devices that help stimulate the muscles during a treatment.

Aside from physical injuries and conditions affecting the bones and muscles of the body, physiotherapists are also equipped to treat other medical conditions or diseases, such as:

  • Autoimmune conditions
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Chronic conditions
    • Asthma
    • High blood pressure
  • Neurological conditions
    • Alzheimer’s disease
    • Cerebral Palsy
    • Multiple Sclerosis
    • Stroke
    • Vertigo

Physioactive in Singapore has skilled physiotherapists that can help you get back on your feet following a body injury. Visit their clinic or website to know more about the services that they offer.


Orchard Clinic

Camden Medical Centre #06-01 Singapore 248649

Phone: 6235 2647

CBD Clinic

160 Robinson Road, #05-03 SBF Center Singapore 068914

Phone: 6438 0162

East Coast Clinic

46 East Coast Road Eastgate #08-03 Singapore 428766

Phone: 6443 4591

Jurong Clinic

2 Venture Drive Vision Exchange #02-13/14 Singapore 608526

Phone: 6258 5602

Novena Clinic

8 Sinaran Drive Novena Specialist Center #07-12 Singapore 307470

Phone: 6734 4707

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