Physiotherapy for Shoulder Pain

The shoulder is a remarkable part of the human body, responsible for providing the mobility and stability necessary for a wide range of activities. It is a complex part of the human anatomy that consists of four joints working together to facilitate movement and support. The shoulder joints are further supported by the following:

 

  • Rotator cuff: A group of muscles and tendons at your shoulder that supports it and allows it to move in a wide range.
  • Bursa: A small bag of fluid that acts like a cushion to protect the rotator cuff and allows the tendons and bones to glide without friction.
  • Glenoid Labrum: This component forms the shape of a cup that allows the rounded end of the head of the humerus to fit and move freely within the shoulder socket.

 

Due to its complexity, the shoulder is prone to injuries and inflammatory conditions that cause discomfort or pain, limiting flexibility and leading to decreased quality of life. Therefore, understanding the shoulder’s anatomy is important as it helps you take the necessary precautions. It is also highly encouraged that you seek physiotherapy treatment (if necessary) in Singapore to prevent your existing shoulder pain from becoming chronic and more severe.

What causes shoulder pain?

As mentioned above, as it is a complex body structure, and multiple components are involved, shoulder pain can be attributed to a range of causes that would require further diagnosis before a treatment method can be prescribed. Here are some common causes of shoulder pain here in Singapore:

Shoulder Bursitis

Shoulder bursitis is when the bursa in your shoulder becomes inflamed. Bursa is a small fluid-filled sac that acts as a cushion between your shoulder and your arm. The causes of this condition are either overuse of your arm or injury to the shoulder joints. These cause fluid to collect in the bursa, leading to swelling, inflammation, and pain. The symptoms of shoulder bursitis include:

  • Pain in one or both shoulders.
  • Pain when you move your arm/s.
  • A feeling of weakness in your arm/s.

Physiotherapy play a significant role in the treatment and pain management of shoulder bursitis. Physiotherapists in Singapore employ various techniques to address the underlying causes and alleviate symptoms. Manual therapy techniques, including dry needling, joint mobilisation and soft tissue mobilisation, help improve shoulder joint mobility, reduce muscle tension, and promote healing. Additionally, specific exercises are prescribed to strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulder, improve range of motion, and enhance stability. Physiotherapists also provide education on proper body mechanics and ergonomic practices to prevent further strain on the shoulder. By combining these interventions, physiotherapy aims to reduce pain, restore shoulder function, and improve the quality of life for individuals with shoulder bursitis.

Shoulder Tendinitis

Shoulder tendinitis is when the tendons or the rotator cuff of your shoulders are thickened and inflamed. When these tendons are injured, they cannot work properly, leading to further inflammation of the surrounding tendons and what ensues is pain. Shoulder tendinitis is usually caused by the excess use of your shoulder. What this means is that there has been an excess of repetitive motions in your shoulders, and such repetitive movements have caused damage to your shoulders’ tendons. Other reasons for this condition can also be the carrying of heavy objects and doing work that requires you to keep your arms raised for long periods of time.

athlete in singlet showing his shoulders

Shoulder Tendon Tears

A tendon tear of the shoulder is a condition in which the tendon that connects the rotator cuff to the shoulder blade is torn. The rotator cuff is a set of four muscles and tendons that helps stabilise the shoulder joints.

The most common cause of a tendon tear of the shoulder is an injury to the arm. Other causes that result in pain may include repetitive overhead movements, sudden forceful movement, or stress to the arm/s. An injury or overuse may cause a torn rotator cuff, but it can also happen from simple tasks such as sleeping with your arm in an awkward position.

Physiotherapy is essential for treating and managing shoulder tendon tears. They use manual therapy techniques to improve joint mobility and promote healing. Specific exercises are prescribed to strengthen muscles, enhance range of motion, and stabilise the shoulder. Education on proper body mechanics, activity modification, and gradual return to functional activities is provided. Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in promoting recovery, reducing pain, and restoring shoulder function in tendon tear cases.

Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement is a condition that occurs when the rotator cuff and other soft tissues in your shoulder get compressed between the head of the humerus and the acromion (the highest point of the shoulder, formed by the scapula). Sometimes, this compression can result in pain, inflammation, and loss in range of motion.

The most common causes of impingement are:

  • Arthritis.
  • Overuse of the arm.
  • Repetitive motions.
  • Sleeping on one side with an arm over the head (supine).
  • Trauma to the shoulder joint.
  • Carrying heavy loads on one’s shoulders.

Physiotherapy is crucial in managing shoulder impingement. Manual therapy techniques improve shoulder mobility and reduce muscle tension. Specific exercises strengthen surrounding muscles, enhance range of motion, and improve stability. Education on proper body mechanics, ergonomics, and activity modification is provided. Physiotherapy plays a vital role in addressing the underlying causes, relieving pain, and promoting recovery in shoulder impingement cases.

man suffering from pain on right shoulder

Shoulder Fracture

Shoulder fracture is when there are breaks in the bones that make up your shoulder joint. The most common cause of a shoulder fracture is a fall that is broken by an outstretched arm. Less common would be a fracture that is a result of sustaining a sports-related trauma.

The following are some of the signs and symptoms of having sustained a fractured shoulder:

  • Pain sharp enough to interrupt sleep
  • A feeling that your arm is not fully functioning
  • A feeling that your arm is not in its usual position
  • Swelling and bruising around the shoulder joint
  • Inability to move your arm
Physiotherapy plays a vital role in the treatment and pain management of a shoulder fracture. Initially, physiotherapists in Singapore will use pain management techniques to reduce pain and swelling. As healing progresses, they prescribe exercises to improve range of motion, strength, and flexibility in the shoulder joint. Manual therapy techniques may be utilised to restore normal joint mechanics and alleviate muscle tightness. Additionally, physiotherapists provide guidance on proper shoulder mechanics, activity modification, and gradual return to functional activities, aiding in the recovery process and optimising shoulder function after a fracture.

Arthritis

Arthritis leads to inflammation, pain, and stiffness in the joints. The most regular form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, where the cartilage or bone around the joints breaks down. This results in pain and inflammation in the joint.

The shoulder joint is one of the most common sites for arthritis as it has a lot of movement and experiences daily wear-and-tear. Arthritis causes shoulder pain by affecting how much you use your arm and making it difficult for you to move it around freely.

Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in the treatment and pain management of arthritis in the shoulder. Physiotherapists in Singapore will prescribe specific exercises to improve shoulder strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Manual therapy techniques like joint mobilisation can help restore joint function and alleviate stiffness. Physiotherapists also provide education on activity modification, postural correction, and ergonomic practices to reduce strain on the shoulder joint. Overall, physiotherapy aims to improve shoulder function, reduce pain, and enhance the quality of life for individuals with shoulder arthritis.

man receiving treatment from a doctor for shoulder pain
Play Video about Explanation of What is Frozen Shoulder on YouTube by Hong Kai

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition in which the shoulder joints become stiff and painful due to inflammation of the connective tissue surrounding the shoulder joints’ capsules. With the formation of scar tissue, the shoulder joints become less mobile, resulting in pain and restricted movement. The cause of frozen shoulder is not known but there are some risk factors such as age (40-60), pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, and previous shoulder injuries. Symptoms of frozen shoulder include:
  • Pain in the affected area when you move your arms.
  • Stiffness in the shoulder joints
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Weakness in the arms
  • Pain that worsens at night
Surgical treatment for frozen shoulders would include the removal of pain generators via minimally invasive procedures, while non-surgical treatments include physiotherapy, injections, and medication.

How Frozen Shoulder Treatment In Singapore Can Help

At Benchmark Physio, our experienced physiotherapists can help you manage frozen shoulders with a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your needs. Our approach may include manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, and range-of-motion exercises to improve shoulder mobility and reduce pain. We may also recommend heat or ice therapy, as well as other pain management techniques such as dry needling or taping that are appropriate for your condition. To supplement your in-clinic treatment, we have also created a video on how to manage frozen shoulders, which features our clinic director and chief physiotherapist. Our team will work closely with you to develop a personalised treatment plan that takes into account your medical history, lifestyle, and goals. We are committed to helping you recover from frozen shoulders and regain your quality of life. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our expert physiotherapists.

Shoulder Pain Symptoms

These are common symptoms and signs of shoulder injuries that are of concern:

  • Redness or warmth in your shoulder
  • Persistent pain in your shoulder, neck and back
  • Popping, clicking, or grinding sensation in your shoulder, especially when you move your arm/s
  • Muscle weakness and stiffness
  • Restricted range of motion

Diagnosing Shoulder Pain

A variety of tests can diagnose shoulder pain, with a physical exam being the most common way. A physician will do a physical examination, taking note of the pain’s location and severity, and asking questions about what activities will cause it and how long it will last.

A physician commonly orders these tests to confirm a shoulder pain diagnosis. These will tell the physician whether there is an injury or any other problem in the shoulder joint that is causing the pain:

  • X-ray that uses radiation to show shoulder dislocation, osteoarthritis, or bone fracture images.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan that uses radio waves and a magnet to develop high-resolution images of your shoulders and the structures around them.
  • Computerised tomography (CT) scan that uses a computer and x-ray to develop three-dimensional visuals of your shoulder.

Seek expert advice if you’re feeling persistent pain or discomfort in your shoulder. Once your physician has diagnosed your shoulder pain and identified its cause, these are some common treatmentsinSingapore your physician would recommend:

  • Shoulder surgery to stabilise the shoulder joint or repair the torn rotator cuff tendons
  • Physiotherapy for strengthening of shoulder muscles and improving shoulder flexibility.
  • Over-the-counter painkillers to relieve mild shoulder pain.
  • RICE therapy (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) to relieve pain and minimise swelling and inflammation of the shoulder.
  • Corticosteroid injection to minimise the inflammation and relieve pain caused by arthritis and bursitis.

Frequently Asked Questions

To prevent shoulder pain, it is important to maintain good posture, practice proper body mechanics when lifting or carrying heavy objects, avoid repetitive overhead motions, and take regular breaks if your work requires you to keep your arms raised for long periods of time.

Additionally, regular exercise that focuses on strengthening the muscles around your shoulder can help improve your shoulder stability and prevent injuries.

Recovery time varies depending on the severity and cause of the shoulder pain, as well as the individual's overall health and adherence to the treatment plan.

A physiotherapist can provide an estimated timeline for recovery based on these factors.

Although some exercises or treatments may cause slight discomfort or soreness, physiotherapy should not be excessively painful. Benchmark Physio's Physiotherapists will work with our patients to ensure that the treatment plan is tailored to their level of comfort.

Why choose Benchmark Physio for physiotherapy for shoulder pain?

When it comes to frozen shoulder and other shoulder pain ailments, Benchmark Physio is your one-stop solution. Our experienced team of physiotherapists in Singapore are here to help you identify and manage your shoulder pain.

As physiotherapy specialists, we understand the importance of getting you back to your activities quickly and pain-free. That’s why we provide a comprehensive range of services such as manual therapy, dry needling, exercise prescription, and mobilisation techniques to help you relieve your shoulder pain. Our team also formulates individualised treatment plans for each patient, ensuring that every patient receives the best quality of care and excellent results. So if you’re looking for an effective and safe solution to your shoulder pain, contact Benchmark Physio today.

Meet Our Physiotherapist

Ng Hong Kai, an experienced physiotherapist, has carefully reviewed the information on this page.

hong-kai's profile photo

Clinic Director and Chief Physiotherapist​​

  • Master of Clinical Physiotherapy (Musculoskeletal), Curtin University (Australia)
  • Master of Physiotherapy, University of Sydney (Australia)
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise & Sports Science), University of Sydney (Australia)
  • Member of Australian College of Physiotherapists and Australian Physiotherapy Association
  • Full registration with Allied Health Professions Council, Singapore, and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
  • GEMt Advanced Dry Needling Practitioner

Hong Kai has been practising musculoskeletal physiotherapy for more than a decade. He is the first Singaporean to achieve dual credentials as both an APA Titled Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist and a tertiary trained Exercise Scientist.

Hong Kai's broad and extensive skillset allows him to create solutions that are simple, effective and tailored to a client’s musculoskeletal needs. His beliefs in continuing education and self improvement led him to complete his Masters in Clinical Physiotherapy (Musculoskeletal), where he had a chance to participate in formal research into knee osteoarthritis under the supervision of world renowned researcher and physiotherapist Prof Peter 0′ Sullivan. 

Hong Kai has experience treating a variety of musculoskeletal conditions, with a specific focus on addressing lower back, neck, shoulder and knee pain.

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