As many as 1 in 4 Canadians experience shoulder pain. Pain ranges from a mild nuisance to severe disability. Shoulder pain has many origins. Rotator cuff disorders are the most common. Many others suffer from a frozen shoulder, labral tear, or instability.
In addition to the many origins of shoulder pain, there are even more options for treatment. In some respects, different options are a good thing. However, many treatment options in physical therapy are a waste of time. Manual therapy is proven to help people with all types of shoulder problems.
Proven Physical Therapy Treatments for People with Shoulder Pain
A 2020 research review in The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy looked at all treatment choices physical therapists use for shoulder pain. This includes exercise, manual therapy, electrotherapy, ultrasound, laser, and other combined approaches.
Based on this extensive research, exercise clearly has the most powerful influence on shoulder pain. Manual therapy is also strongly recommended. Manual therapy by itself has only a small influence on shoulder pain. However, when done together manual therapy enhances the effects of exercise.
Electrical stimulation, ultrasound, laser, and shockwave therapy are proven to have no effect on shoulder pain. Based on this research, individualized exercise combined with manual therapy is the best approach to help your shoulder pain.
Three Different Types of Manual Therapy for Shoulder Pain
Physical therapists use various manual therapy techniques. This includes joint mobilization, spinal manipulation, soft tissue mobilization, and manual resistance exercise. Your physical therapist performs an in-depth examination at your first visit. This allows him or her to determine the techniques that are best for you.
Shoulder Joint Mobilization
Joint mobilization stretches the capsule and ligaments surrounding your shoulder. Your physical therapist tests the mobility of your joints. Then he or she determines whether or not these structures are contributing to your pain or stiffness. These techniques are painless. And they often result in immediate improvements in pain and shoulder mobility.
When you raise your arms overhead, your spine extends and rotates. When this does not happen, greater stress is placed on the muscles and tendons of your shoulder. Thoracic spine manipulation involves a quick stretch to your spinal joints. You may or may not experience a “pop”. In either case, you will feel an immediate improvement in your shoulder pain.
Shoulder Manual Resistance Exercise
Mobilization and manipulation improve mobility. Immediately after regaining your mobility, it is important to retrain your muscle strength and coordination. Otherwise, you will quickly lose your new range of motion. Physical therapists are skilled at using their hands to provide resistance. In some ways, this is superior to using weights or bands.
Get the Right Manual Therapy for Your Shoulder Pain
Manual therapy accelerates your response to exercise. You will see greater and quicker improvements when the two are combined. Your physical therapist will determine the best manual therapy techniques for you after your initial examination.
If you are suffering from shoulder pain or stiffness, contact your physical therapist today. We would like to help you achieve your goals.