9 Shoulder Injuries Chiropractors Help With

Chiropractic Care for Shoulder Injuries 

Of all the joints in your body, the shoulder has the greatest range of motion. It connects the upper limb to your axial skeleton and is surrounded by important structures.

According to webmd.com “The shoulder is one of the largest and most complex joints in the body. The shoulder joint is formed where the humerus (upper arm bone) fits into the scapula (shoulder blade), like a ball and socket. Other important bones in the shoulder include the acromion, which is a bony projection off the scapula.”

Imbalances in the bones and muscles of the shoulder can lead to postural imbalances as we compensate and change the quality and quantity of movement to reduce discomfort and avoid pain. Common compensations include shifting weight, rotating our torso, restricting our movement, and limiting our range of motion.

An experienced chiropractor can help establish a clear root cause diagnosis and formulate corrective care to redress imbalances of the shoulder and speed up your recovery.

Here is a list of nine specific shoulder injuries and conditions that a chiropractor can help to ease by reducing painful symptoms.

1.     Frozen shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis) 

Frozen shoulder is an everyday term used to describe Adhesive Capsulitis. In this condition, adhesions are formed around the joint capsule resulting in stiffness of the joint. Injury to the joint, immobilisation and health conditions such as diabetes or hormonal imbalance can also make you more prone to developing a frozen shoulder. A frozen shoulder can start with initial pain and a reduced range of motion that gradually affects your daily activities, cause disturbed sleep, and if left untreated may develop into complete restriction of movement. Frozen shoulder can be treated through joint mobilisation and chiropractic adjustments as well as deep tissue massage, trigger point release therapy and corrective exercises. Specific exercises may be required to maintain the acquired ranges of movement, and to strengthen the muscles for a full recovery.

2.     Faulty movement pattern 

Your body is very resilient and adapts to most physical demands life presents. Factors such as overuse, repetitive movement, prolonged strain and poor posture may develop into a faulty movement pattern. It occurs when the different parts that make up the shoulder are not working together as intended over a prolonged period of time. Some contributing factors may include stiffness, tenderness or certain muscles that are over-developed in relation to their antagonist partners. Sometimes an injury can also lead to a faulty movement pattern as we attempt to work around the injury to avoid pain. This type of dysfunction generally does not show up on x-ray imaging but can be diagnosed using a structured physical examination. Chiropractic care can alleviate such pain and restore normal movement. An experienced chiropractor can provide precise adjustments to promote healing and improve the quality and quantity of movement. Corrective exercises, postural correction, and ergonomic advice are additional forms of care offered by chiropractors.

3.     Arthritis affecting the Shoulder

The bones that make up the shoulder joint are all covered by a protective layer called cartilage. It prevents friction between the bone surfaces and acts as a lubricant. When arthritis is present, the cartilage starts to wear down – reducing its protective benefit, and eventually leading to bone-on-bone friction. It can be brought on through hereditary genes, injuries, and working in extremely cold conditions. If you have arthritis, you may notice achiness in the joint which flares up after physical activity or drastic changes in temperature. As the condition worsens, the pain increases while the range of motion restricts.

An experienced chiropractor can help improve the nerve flow controlling the shoulder joint and perform soft tissue work to speed up the healing process. You may be given guidance on how to perform daily activities safely, ergonomic advice and corrective exercises. Some natural supplements such as Glucosamine and Chondroitin, Omega-3 oils, S-adenosyl-methionine (SAM-e), Curcumin and vitamins can provide additional support.

4.     Shoulder Impingement

Impingement is a painful condition caused by rubbing or pressure on a tendon. Repetitive movement of the arm may result in inflation which can lead to pinching of a tendon between the bone structure of the shoulder joint. This condition is more common when strenuous overhead activity is involved. You may use hot compress to alleviate the pain or use an over-the-counter muscle rub to relieve the symptoms. Chiropractic care for shoulder impingement may include specific cervical and thoracic adjustments, manipulation and mobilisation of the shoulder joint, cold therapy and soft tissue work to accelerate healing.

5.     Shoulder Tendonitis

Shoulder tendonitis is caused by an inflamed tendon causing pain and stiffness in your shoulder. This may severely limit and interfere with your ability to perform sport activities. Inflammation of the tendon can be caused by irritation due to friction; a repetitive movement, or incorrect form when doing resistance training. As a first line of defence it’s usually best to avoid such activities till inflammation subsides. A thorough chiropractic assessment may reveal a secondary cause of tendinitis such as a faulty movement pattern or a misaligned joint. An experienced chiropractor will perform an in-depth consultation and full body and joint palpation to arrive at a clear root cause diagnosis. From the findings, corrective care and specific adjustments can be performed to promote healing.

6.     Shoulder Bursitis

“Bursitis (bur-SY-tis) is a painful condition that affects the small, fluid-filled sacs — called bursae (bur-SEE) — that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near your joints. Bursitis occurs when bursae become inflamed. The most common locations for bursitis are in the shoulder, elbow and hip” according to MayoClinic.org.

Bursa can also become irritated by microtrauma (i.e., repetitive movements) or an injury making movements painful. Bursitis may also arise from an impingement sustained over time. Chiropractic care can be sought to treat this kind of pain through massage, shoulder adjustments, and corrective exercises that de-stress the shoulder bursae.

7.    Shoulder Stiffness

A stiff shoulder limits the range and quality of movement at the joint and may be accompanied by achiness or pain. Chiropractic treatment for shoulder stiffness may include soft tissue work, trigger point release and specific spinal and shoulder joint adjustments. Chiropractic care will be tailored based on the specific condition of your shoulders and the severity of your stiffness. Such care improves nerve flow and mobility which speeds up the healing process.

8.     Referred Shoulder Pain

When the root cause of shoulder pain is not located near the area of pain but somewhere else, it is said to be ‘referred’. Referred pain in the shoulder may be caused by a variety of issues such as a cervical nerve impingement, the heart, lungs, abdominal organs, surgery or trauma. It is important therefore to disclose your health and spinal history when you go for a full chiropractic consultation to ensure a clear root cause diagnosis. You may also visit your GP to help rule out other causes that require a different type of treatment.

Pain in the shoulder may often be referred from an irritated nerve in the neck region. Causes may include injury, nerve impingement, or a microtrauma caused by bad posture or a faulty movement pattern. An experienced chiropractor can help improve the musculoskeletal imbalance and nerve impingement to treat the direct cause of the pain. 

9.     Nerve Impingement

We have discussed the impingement of tendons and bursae. Nerve impingement is another form of impingement that can cause restriction in nerve flow, reduced function and pain. Symptoms caused by nerve impingement are often not localised and may travel to the distal area supplied by the nerve in question. Apart from pain and stiffness, nerve impingement may also include numbness and pins and needles (paresthesia) in the arms or fingers. Shoulder nerve impingement symptoms usually arise from the cervical region. Chiropractic care for this imbalance includes cervical adjustments to restore nerve flow and corrective care.