Can Chiropractic Treatment Help With Shoulder Pain?

By: Dr. Claire Wells, Chiropractor

Chiropractic Treatment for Shoulder Pain


Shoulder pain is one of the most common reasons people see a doctor. The shoulder is a complex joint that has so many moving parts and attachments that it’s no wonder it’s prone to pain and injury. Whether you’re an athlete, work in construction, or simply have a desk job, shoulder pain can strike anyone.

Many people think that if they lift something heavy with their arms or have some other motion that puts stress on their shoulders they will get hurt. However, even everyday activities such as reaching up high, sleeping awkwardly and carrying a purse on one side can cause strain in your shoulders and lead to pain.

Working with a skilled chiropractor can help reduce your pain and speed your recovery so you can get back to doing what you love. Here are some common types of shoulder pain, as well as ways you can relieve your symptoms with chiropractic care.

Shoulder Pain From Daily Activities

If you experience shoulder pain that seems to come out of nowhere, there may be a simple explanation – you’re doing too many activities that put pressure on your shoulder muscles and joints without allowing them time to recover. When you have a muscle injury, it doesn’t heal as quickly as a bone break or sprain, so you can feel the effects for weeks or months as it slowly heals.

The shoulder is a particularly complex joint, with many muscles and ligaments that can become overworked and inflamed through activities that may seem small, like sleeping with your arm over your head or constantly reaching above your head at work. To avoid shoulder pain from daily activities, you need to pay attention to your posture as well as the way you move. Even if you rarely lift anything heavy, you can still cause overuse injuries in your shoulders from poor posture. 

This type of soft tissue or connective tissue injury responds well to chiropractic treatment.

Shoulder Pain From Overuse

If you’ve experienced an acute injury like a sports injury or a fall, you’re probably aware of the excruciating pain that comes with it. However, sometimes the pain from an injury doesn’t come until days or weeks later, making it difficult to know what is causing it. Injuries to the shoulder joint can cause acute pain as well as chronic pain.

One common way an injury can lead to chronic pain is through overuse – the same way lifting too much weight causes muscle strains, performing movements that put too much stress on your joints can cause overuse injuries like rotator cuff tendonitis and bursitis.

Rotator cuff tendonitis is the most common form of overuse injury of the shoulder, with research suggesting that it affects up to 40% of the general population at some point in their lives. Rotator cuff tendonitis happens when your rotator cuff muscles become inflamed and swollen, causing them to rub against the joint, which can become painful and cause your whole shoulder to feel stiff and sore. Bursitis, an overuse injury that happens when tiny sacs of fluid around your joints become inflamed, is another common cause of shoulder pain from overuse.

This type of injury also responds well to chiropractic techniques just as joint manipulation, shoulder tendon manipulation and other shoulder pain treatment.

Shoulder Instability and Rotator Cuff Injury

If you experience a sudden onset of pain in your shoulder, your doctor may discover that you have some degree of shoulder instability. This means that your shoulder joint is not as stable as it should be, and is particularly common following a shoulder dislocation. If your shoulder is unstable, you may have to undergo surgery to repair the joint and reattach any torn or stretched muscles or ligaments in order to regain full range of motion.

If your shoulder pain is chronic and accompanied by a feeling that your shoulder may “pop out of joint,” you may have rotator cuff tendonitis–the most frequent cause of shoulder instability, so if your pain is not caused by a specific injury but is instead chronic and causing you problems, this may be the source of your pain. Rotator cuff tendonitis results from overuse, particularly of the supraspinatus and subspinous muscles, which help to stabilize the joint. When these muscles are inflamed and swollen, they can rub against the joint, causing pain and inflammation in the entire shoulder.

Chiropractic care addresses shoulder injuries such as these with a wide range of physical therapy.

Chronic Shoulder Pain

If your shoulder pain is severe and does not ease with time, it may be chronic. Chronic pain means that the pain is long-lasting, lasting longer than six to eight weeks. One of the most common reasons for long-term shoulder pain is an underlying condition like arthritis. If you are experiencing long-term shoulder pain, you should see your doctor to determine if there is an underlying condition that may need treatment.

Overuse injuries like rotator cuff tendonitis can also cause chronic pain. While some cases of tendonitis heal in six to eight weeks, others may take longer. If you have been experiencing shoulder pain for longer than six to eight weeks, it is important to see your doctor to rule out underlying causes such as arthritis.

Shoulder Bursitis

If your shoulder pain is accompanied by redness, warmth, and tenderness in the joint above your shoulder, you may have shoulder bursitis. Bursitis occurs when small sacs of fluid that naturally exist in your joints become inflamed and swollen, causing redness and pain. Bursitis is most common in your knees and shoulders, though it can also affect your elbows and hips.

If you have inflamed and swollen joints in your shoulder, your doctor may diagnose you with subacromial bursitis or supraspinatus bursitis. Bursitis occurs when you have a sudden increase in shoulder movement or you perform repetitive motions that put pressure on your joints or cause friction in the joint. It is common for people who work in construction, sports coaches, and people who work on computers to experience bursitis as a result of their jobs.

Tendon Tears

The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles and a tendon that attaches these muscles to the bones in your shoulder joint. If you suddenly increase the intensity of your workouts, or if you have a degenerative condition that makes it difficult to move your arm normally, you may tear one of these tendons. Tendon tears happen when the tendon becomes overstretched and snaps or separates from the muscles around it. While some tears are minor, others can be quite severe and require surgery to repair.


As you can see, there are many reasons for shoulder pain, from poor posture and repetitive motions to sudden injuries. If you are experiencing shoulder pain, it is important to see your doctor to rule out any underlying causes so you can start to heal. With treatments like chiropractic adjustments and physiotherapy, you can address the root cause of your pain and reduce your discomfort. So don’t suffer in silence if you have shoulder pain – call Peak Health & Performance and get started on care that can relieve your suffering.

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