Ask Our PT -Why Does My Shoulder Hurt?

By Tiffany Coletta

Question: Lately my shoulder has been getting sore at the end of my workday.  It seems to be worse when I am reaching overhead especially if I maintain my arms overhead for long periods of time during my workday.  I haven’t injured my shoulder that I can think of.  The pain more or less came out of nowhere.  Why does my shoulder hurt?


Answer:  You may be dealing with a case of shoulder impingement.  Often times in the shoulder, we have muscle imbalance between the larger muscles (deltoid, upper trapezius, etc.) and the smaller muscles on the rotator cuff.  When the rotator cuff gets weak, resulting in this muscle imbalance, the mechanics of the shoulder joint become impaired.  This can result in the rotator cuff muscles and tendons being irritated by rubbing against one of the bones which forms the shoulder joint.  This imbalance is most noticeable when your arms are over your head due to the forces necessary to maintain this position. 

A course of Physical Therapy to strengthen the rotator cuff and improve your shoulder mechanics can be very helpful.  Additionally, job and posture modification may be necessary in the short term to reduce the stresses on these tendons.  Icing the shoulder for periods of 15 minutes after heavy use can also improve the situation.  Thank you for the question!

Jeff Moore, DPT, MTC

Physical Therapist

Thank you to our patients who share their success stories with us.  The following update is from a Bozeman patient of ours who recently completed rehab with Jason following knee surgery.    After her surgery and rehab, she completed demanding hikes in the Highland Mary Lakes and Grand Turk regions in the San Juan Mountains in Colorado.  She writes to Jason "...Again, my thanks for your persistence and ability to prescribe what was needed."    Congratulations to D.H. for taking on these demanding long-distance hikes with elevations up to 12,400 feet!  May her inspiring endeavor be an inspiration to others and especially, you, as well!

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