Accessibility View Close toolbar

Healing Chronic Shoulder Pain

As we get older, years and decades of mechanical stress may lead to deterioration of joints, ligaments, and tendons. This degenerative process, commonly known as arthritis, primarily affects weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees and those found in the lumbar spine. The shoulder, too, is especially prone to undergo arthritic changes owing to its extreme mobility. The extensive range of motion at the shoulder is built-in to the design of this structure, but the tradeoff is instability. The design of the shoulder sacrifices stability for mobility.
Degenerative disorders of the shoulder typically involve the rotator cuff. This broad, flat structure is composed of the muscle-tendon units of the four rotator cuff muscles: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor. The thick covering of the rotator cuff surrounds the head of the arm bone and supports and strengthens the shoulder joint. But owing to the shoulder's inherent instability contrasted with its great mobility, the soft tissues of the rotator cuff undergo repetitive stress and strain. Ultimately, degenerative changes may occur, leading to the two prominent symptoms of pain and restricted range of motion.
An entire orthopedic sub-specialty focuses on treatment of chronic shoulder pain and includes long-term use of anti-inflammatory medication, corticosteroid injections when medications do not provide sufficient relief, and eventually surgery to repair tears in the various rotator cuff tendons. "Revision" surgery is commonly performed when the benefits of prior surgery are exhausted.1
The good news is that in many cases, a more optimal approach is available, one that utilizes the body's own natural recuperative powers. For many people, chronic shoulder pain can be reduced and chronic loss of mobility can be improved by engaging in specific activities and performing specific rehabilitative exercises. The goals of rehabilitation are to increase shoulder range of motion and build up shoulder strength. As these goals are accomplished, the likely result is reduction of intensity and frequency of occurrence of shoulder pain.
Engaging in an overall strength training program is an important general approach to managing chronic shoulder pain.2,3 Strength training should be done progressively, starting with light weights and building up over time. Exercises specific to the shoulder include seated dumbbell or barbell presses, dumbbell or cable lateral raises, seated bent-over rows, and internal and external rotation exercises done with very light dumbbells on a flat bench. If one has experienced an acute shoulder injury, early rehabilitation should precede rehabilitative strength training. Early rehabilitation includes pendulum exercises and finger-walking up a wall in both forward-facing and side positions.
Your chiropractor is experienced in injury rehabilitation and will be able to help you design an effective flexibility and strengthening program for improved shoulder function.
1Keener JD: Revision rotator cuff repair. Clin Sports Med 31(4):713-725, 2012
2Lewis JS: A specific exercise program for patients with subacromial impingement syndrome can improve function and reduce the need for surgery. J Physiother 58(2):127, 2012
3Andersen LL, et al: Effectiveness of small daily amounts of progressive resistance training for frequent neck/shoulder pain: randomised controlled trial. Pain 152(2):440-446, 2011

New patients receive a free consultation!

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule


7:30am - 12pm and 2pm - 6pm


2pm - 6pm


7:30am - 12pm and 2pm - 6pm


7:30am - 12pm and 2pm - 6pm




Appointment Only




Find us on the map

  • "Dr. Blair and his staff are wonderful, caring individuals who have always given my family the best care. You guys are amazing!"
  • Ice Capades

    In the depths of winter, adults, as well as children, exert themselves to engage in enjoyable outdoor activities that will keep them warm and provide both excitement and entertainment. Cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, sledding, ice hockey, figure skating, and speed skating all have their enthusiasts. Many ...

    Read More
  • Being a Change Agent

    Being a Change Agent For most of us, change happens slowly, if at all. But as the recent holiday season fades into the distance, many of us wish to be increasingly proactive this year and take real action on the numerous New Year's resolutions that we made in regard to our health and well-being. Back ...

    Read More
  • Holiday Cheer

    In early winter, whether we're celebrating Hanukkah or Christmas, both or nothing at all, families and friends gather to share food and drink and give thanks for a year successfully completed. We send up a rousing holiday cheer and share delicious holiday cheer in celebration of our accomplishments and ...

    Read More
  • A User's Guide to Healthy Knees

    Healthy knees require continuous motion. However, our generally sedentary lifestyles are at odds with the maintenance of robust knee joint architecture. Left motionless throughout large portions of the day, over time knee cartilage will break down and knee ligaments will become lax. These chronic changes ...

    Read More
  • Detective Story

    When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes applied himself to a difficult case, he famously utilized his powers of deduction. Holmes assembled and examined the facts before him and employed a scientific method of analysis to arrive at a solution that took into account of all the elements of the ...

    Read More
  • Learning From History

    Whether we're driving a car, riding a bike, or trying to record a spare at our local bowling alley, our musculoskeletal system bases its decision-making on past history, that is, what it has learned before. Drawing on years of experience, recorded deep within our muscle memory, we're able to avoid an ...

    Read More
  • A Center for Health

    Mindfulness programs and practices frequently describe a process of locating your "center." One's center may be conceived as a focus of energy, both spiritual and physical, by which all activities may be grounded and from which all activities flow. Similarly, ballet teachers and gymnastics instructors ...

    Read More
  • Wildfire Inside of You

    Comparisons between the inner world and the outer world have been frequently drawn by philosophers, nature writers, and visual artists. For example, "seeing the universe in a grain of sand" is a well-known aphorism. The number of neurons in your brain has been compared to the number of stars in the Milky ...

    Read More
  • Hitting for the Cycle

    In baseball, hitting for the cycle means that a batter hits a single, a double, a triple, and a home run during the same game. Hitting for the cycle is a rare baseball event, occurring about as often as a no-hitter by a pitcher. Certainly, a great deal of skill is involved in accomplishing such a feat. ...

    Read More
  • Find Inspiration in Walden

    In this 200th anniversary year of the birth of Henry David Thoreau, each of us can increase our health and well-being by applying his guidance to our regular exercise activities. Thoreau, one of the United States' greatest writers, naturalists, and philosophers, not only walked the length and breadth ...

    Read More

Newsletter Signup