Shoulder pain is very common and most of us will have had some pain in our neck and shoulder region at some time. It can be really disabling, interfering with work, sleep, dressing and doing normal activities.

The shoulder is a “soft-tissue joint” as the bony joint itself is very shallow with a very large ball and a small socket that has a ring of cartilage to make it a little deeper. So the shoulder is less stable than many joints and relies on the ligaments and muscles for its health and daily function.

Osteopaths are highly trained to assess and treat the shoulder, as they are for the other joints of the body. Not only can they help you with pain and rehabilitation after an injury or operation, but they can also advise you how to remain strong and pain-free in your shoulder region.

Shoulder Pain Diagnosis

A number of conditions are important in causing neck and shoulder pain and they vary with the age of the person and their activity.

  • Neck and Shoulder Pain due to Tension. With our tendency to sit for long periods in cars and at desks with our computers, keeping our head, neck and shoulders in one position for too long can lead to pain. This can also occur in manual workers and in mothers who have to move small children around a lot. Osteopathy treatment with deep tissue massage may be a useful approach here, with advice on how to reduce the stresses on the shoulder and neck.
  • Rotator Cuff Tears. Cuff tears occur gradually with age, so are rare in younger people and much more common in the over 60s. The tendons of the shoulder muscles can become inflamed and suffer small tears with may progress to larger tears, causing pain and limitation of movement. Deep tissue massage, stretching, joint mobilisations and muscle strengthening may be useful treatments.
  • Shoulder Impingement. Shoulder impingement syndrome occurs when the arm is raised and the tendon on top of the ball impinges on the underneath of the bone above it, part of the shoulder blade called the acromion. There is often a “painful arc” where the pain comes on at a certain point in the movement and goes off again as the arm is raised further. Shoulder impingement exercises can be useful to strengthen the rotator cuff and restore the normal mechanics to the shoulder joint.
  • Frozen Shoulder. Frozen shoulder is a painful shoulder condition that occurs most commonly between 40 and 60 years of age. The pain usually comes on slowly and can be severe, interfering badly with sleep as it’s difficult to find any position which relieves the pain. The end result can be a stiff shoulder, so the sooner you see an osteopath the better so that a treatment regime to treat the pain and restore normal movement can be started.

What is the best treatment for Neck and Shoulder Pain?

After a thorough history taking, your osteopath will examine your shoulder for restrictions in movement, abnormal movement patterns, painful movements and positions and muscle weakness.

Typical treatment techniques used by osteopaths include manipulation of the neck and thoracic spine, massage and myofascial release to the shoulder muscles, muscle energy techniques, inhibition of overactive muscles and advice.

An exercise programme is prescribed to build on the improvements gained while in treatment with the osteopath. This often concentrates on strengthening the rotator cuff so the ball of the shoulder joint holds a good position against the socket during the large movements that the shoulder is capable of. Improved control of the shoulder blade during shoulder movements can be increased by strengthening the rhomboid, lower trapezius and serratus anterior muscles.