What Does a Chiropractor Do for Shoulder Pain?

The shoulder is an amazing piece of machinery. It has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body. However, this large range of motion makes it less stable compared to the stronger but less mobile hip joint. Thus, the shoulder joint is more vulnerable to injury. I see patients every single day with issues with their shoulders. I will list a few of the more common shoulder problems that I see and treat in my clinic.

Acromioclavicular Separation
A shoulder separation is a fairly common injury, especially in certain sports. Most shoulder separations are actually injuries to the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. The AC joint is the connection between the scapula (shoulder blade) and the clavicle (collarbone). Shoulder dislocations and AC joint separations are often mistaken for each other. But they are very different injuries. In regards to treating this problem, resting a sprained AC joint is very important. The more severe the sprain of the joint or tearing of the supporting ligaments, the longer the joint will have to be immobilized. However, immobilizing the joint for too long is counterproductive. In my office, I use electric current to help speed up the healing process and reduce the pain. Also, gently mobilizing the joint is important. Finally, releasing any spasm or tension in the supporting muscles is important for the shoulder joint to be able to move and heal properly.

Bicep Tendonitis
Bicep tendonitis, also called bicipital tendonitis, is inflammation in the main tendon that attaches the top of the biceps muscle to the shoulder. The most common cause is overuse from certain types of work or sports activities. Bicep tendonitis may develop gradually from the effects of wear and tear, or it can happen suddenly from a direct injury. The tendon may also become inflamed in response to other problems in the shoulder, such as rotator cuff tears, impingement, or shoulder instability. In regards to treatment, deep tissue massage is used to break up any scar tissue. Electric current (called interferential current or “IFC”) can help to reduce the pain and inflammation. And finally, mobilization of shoulder joint (glenohumeral joint) will restore and maintain the mobility of the joint.

Impingement Syndrome
Many people refer to any pain in the shoulder as bursitis. The term bursitis really only means that the part of the shoulder, called the bursa, is inflamed. Tendonitis is when a tendon gets inflamed. This can be another source of pain in the shoulder. Many different problems can cause inflammation of the bursa and/or tendons. Impingement syndrome is one of those problems. Impingement syndrome occurs when the rotator cuff tendons in and around the shoulder joint rub against the boney roof of the shoulder, the acromion. The best treatment for this is to restore proper functioning of the rotator cuff muscles that control how the shoulder joint moves. Addressing dysfunctional rotator cuff muscles will allow the shoulder to move smoothly and completely, without allowing the impingement of the bursa and the muscle tendons.

Rotator Cuff Tears
The rotator cuff tendons are crucial to the healthy functioning of the shoulder. They are subject to a lot of wear and tear, or degeneration, as we use our arms. Tearing of the rotator cuff tendons is an especially painful injury. A torn rotator cuff creates a very weak shoulder. Most of the time patients with torn rotator cuffs are over 30 years old. But rotator cuffs tears can happen at any age. To allow a rotator cuff to function properly, the tense and knotted muscles must be released or loosened by using deep tissue massage or stripping of the muscle. Then, I sometimes use electric current (called Interferential Current). Mobilization or manipulation of the shoulder joint also helps to restore its proper and full range of motion

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome causes pain along the top of the clavicle and shoulder. The pain may spread along the inside edge of the arm, into the hand, and also into the ring and pinky fingers. Numbness and tingling may accompany the pain, especially in the early hours of the morning before it’s time to wake up. Symptoms tend to get worse when driving, lifting, carrying, and writing. The arms may also feel tired when held overhead, as when using a blow dryer. It may be harder to hold and grip things, and the hand may feel clumsy. In regards to treatment, I always ask the patient to start stretching the chest (pectoral) muscles. The nerves of the neck that exit from the spinal cord and between the vertebrae all pass under the chest muscle. Thus, the tighter the chest muscles, the more potential pressure that can be put on the nerves. Deep tissue massage and stripping of the chest and neck muscles will give the nerves from the neck more room to pass. As well, any stiffness or issues in the joints of the neck would be addressed by doing manipulation, or a more passive treatment call “mobilization”.

These shoulder issues are very common and we successfully treat them every day in our clinic. If you require treatment for your shoulder problem, or you simply have questions, see your chiropractor at your earliest convenience.