Shoulder Pain

There are a number of conditions that can cause shoulder pain and that are treated at Herts Family Chiropractic. You may be experiencing a sharp pinch or stabbing pain as you move your shoulder or a toothache, nagging or intense pain in your shoulder that can extend the length of your arm. No matter the cause of your shoulder or arm pain, it can be painful and seriously interfere with your daily activities.

The cause of shoulder pain is often multifactorial. The problem might be a direct result of some kind of trauma – a dislocation or a sprain following a fall or sports injury. However, the problem may be the result of heavy loads or repetitive stresses on the shoulder joint. This could be from poor posture in desk workers, to builders performing manual work all the way through to professional tennis players. Of course there are other conditions such as frozen shoulder, which leave the sufferer with very limited motion in their shoulder joint. Regardless of the cause, what is common in all cases is that it can be very painful and disruptive and have a huge impact on completing everyday tasks such as getting dressed, carrying, driving and sleeping.

Below are some of the common causes of shoulder pain that are treated at Herts Family Chiropractic.

Impingement syndrome

Impingement syndrome is caused by a narrowing of the subacromial space at the tip of the shoulder, resulting in pinching or compression of the soft tissue structures that pass through it. The main structures affected are the rotator cuff tendons (most commonly the supraspinatus), the subacromial bursa (a fluid filled sac which aims to reduce friction and improve glide between tendons) and the long head of the biceps muscle.

Shoulder impingement is commonly associated with poor neck and upper back posture and muscle imbalances causing protraction of the shoulder. Traumatic stresses in the form of repetitive overhead activity or a fall on an outstretched arm are other common causes of impingement syndrome. The soft tissue structures get irritated and inflamed and cause substantial pain at the top of the shoulder, which in some cases can radiate down the outside of the arm to as far as the elbow. An inability to move the arm above the head tends to be the most frequently reported restricted movement and this can make active daily living a challenge. Patients may also experience disrupted sleep or discomfort when lying on the affected side.

Rotator cuff strain

The rotator cuff complex consists of four muscles which work together to provide movement and stability to the gleno-humeral joint (shoulder). Rotator cuff injuries are likely to occur for a specific reason; following a fall, due to pulling or lifting a heavy object or repetition of the same shoulder movement i.e. weight lifting or tennis. During the initial injury, patients often describe a sudden pain or a tearing sensation, this is then followed by a diffuse ache which can radiate to the neck, upper back and arm. Because the rotator muscles assist in elevation of the arm away from the body and internal and external rotation of the arm at the shoulder, patients often complain of a difficulty and weakness when lifting and carrying objects.

Bicep tendinopathy

The biceps brachii muscle is a large muscle that lies on the front of the upper arm between the shoulder and the elbow. The biceps has two heads: short and long heads. It is predominantly the long-head of biceps that becomes symptomatic as it acts as a shoulder joint stabiliser through depression of the humeral head.

The condition is characterised as inflammation, damage or degeneration of the tendon and pain in the front of the shoulder. Most of the inflammation is usually friction related. Patients often complain of a dull ache in the front of the shoulder, which can cause a ‘catching sensation’ with certain movements.

Biceps tendinopathy is rarely seen in isolation. It is caused by overuse, tendon impingement, shoulder joint instability or trauma. It is common in sports that involve throwing, swimmers, gymnasts, weightlifting and some contact sports. Occupations that involve overhead shoulder work or heavy lifting are also at risk.

Frozen shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterised by inflammation, scarring and stiffening of the shoulder joint capsule. Signs and symptoms typically begin gradually, worsen over time and then resolve, usually within one to three years.

The symptoms tend to progress in three phases, each phase lasting around 6 months before improving.

Stage 1: Freezing phase.
Stage 2: Frozen phase.
Stage 3: Thawing phase.


True frozen shoulder can be an extremely painful condition. The capsule surrounding the shoulder joint becomes inflamed and thickened, resulting in a tightening of the joint and restriction in movement. Patients with a frozen shoulder will experience a significantly reduced movement in all ranges of motion but this will improve through each phase and return to normal once the condition resolves.

There is great debate in the exact understanding of why this condition occurs. Any injury to the shoulder can lead to frozen shoulder, including tendonitis, bursitis, rotator cuff injury and shoulder sprains. There is also a marked association with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and history of a shoulder surgery.

Here at Herts Family Chiropractic, a thorough orthopaedic assessment of your shoulder is performed to determine what could be causing your pain, whether it’s the joint, soft tissues or nerve. We’ll use Chiropractic care to gently mobilise and stimulate the shoulder joint and structure. In line with our holistic approach to your treatment, any neck and upper back postural issues that may be related to the functioning of your shoulder will also be taken care of. Following this, individualized exercises to strengthen the shoulder complex that you can perform at home will be given to help prevent your shoulder pain returning.

If you are unsure whether Chiropractic treatment can help resolve your shoulder pain, please contact the clinic on 07947678375 and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.