Preventing and Treating Shoulder Pain

Feb 12, 2019

Physical therapy and shoulder pain… prevention, rehab and recovery to stay energized for life

By Jason Robinet PT, Robinet Physical Therapy

Sport injury, Man with shoulder pain

Shoulder pain can strike just about anyone, from teens and tweens to seniors. From athletes to couch potatoes. Whether you are working on golf swing mechanics, or just trying to reach the top shelf in the pantry. 

I know. As a high school athlete, I separated my AC joint while playing football. I went through 6 weeks of physical therapy to rehab from the injury in order to prepare for the basketball season. After personally experiencing a shoulder injury and subsequent rehab, I found myself interested in learning as much as possible about how the shoulder works and how the body can fully return to its maximal levels of activity and function.

Doctor watching-a-x-ray of broken shoulder with pain on digital tablet.

The shoulder “complex” is a combination of 4 major joints:

  • The glenohumeral (upper arm to the shoulder blade)
  • The AC or acromioclavicular joint (the collar bone to the shoulder blade, that sits on top of the shoulder region)
  • The SC joint (the collar bone to the sternum)
  • The scapulothoracic (the shoulder blade interaction with the rib cage on the upper back).  

Each of these joints play a role in how the shoulder moves and provides stability for the muscles to pull from.  On top of that,  the nerves that give the shoulder muscle control are located in the middle to lower neck region and can affect how the shoulder produces strength and sometimes pain patterns.

A thorough shoulder evaluation and examination at RobinetPT (in either our Rockford and Greenville clinic) includes a check of all four joints. In addition, we check the ligaments surrounding each joint and the surrounding muscles that control joint movements.   What is a common theme in the shoulder is that the rotator cuff muscles get irritated when having to create additional stability because another joint or muscle is not working correctly.  For example, if the upper back spine is stiff and not moving, it affects rib motion and indirectly the shoulder blade movement.  

If the shoulder blade is limited in its motion, it can create a pinch or sharp pain while reaching up with the arm (or shoulder impingement syndrome).  Therapy may include massage with release as we work on the upper back spine and surrounding muscles. This allows the shoulder blade to move normally, taking stress off the shoulder joint. An energized shoulder often contributes to an energized limb.

A senior man and his young son throwing a snowball, playing winter games on vacation.

The shoulder is a complex series of interactions including multiple joints and structures that control and create movement.  As a dynamic, explosive joint (compared to the hip or knee) it is inherently unstable or loose, allowing us to do many different things in different directions of movement.  All of that greatness also is its structural weakness and why so many people have shoulder pain and problems. At Robinet Physical Therapy, we fully examine the mechanics of the shoulder complex to fix the root problems and effectively remove your shoulder pain for now and the future and help you remain energized for life. 

Jason Robinet, with his wife, Barbara, is the co–founder of Robinet Physical Therapy. Watch for his one on one in our monthly RobinetPT newsletter on how to “Be Your Best.”