Shoulder Pain

Do you lie awake at night with an aching shoulder? Do you feel sharp grabs of pain while reaching up into the cupboard or into the back seat of your car? Did your shoulder pain start one day without any injury that you can remember? Shoulder pain can keep us awake at night and limit our day-to-day activities – even the most basic ones like washing our hair or getting dressed. In this article we are going to talk about how shoulder problems can start and what there is to do about it.

First let’s talk about what is inside your shoulder. The shoulder is what we call a ‘ball and socket’ joint. This means that the top of the upper arm bone has a ‘ball’ like surface, and this ball connects with the concave surface of the shoulder blade, similar to a golf ball sitting on a tee. This type of joint (like your hip joint) is build for maximum mobility. Having so much mobility is a good thing because it allows our shoulder and arm to reach in all different directions. However, this excess mobility can also predispose the shoulder to injury.

Almost everyone has heard of the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles responsible for protecting the shoulder. These are often the muscles that are injured in the shoulder because they can become pinched inside the joint (referred to as ‘impingement’). The rotator cuff muscles work alongside the muscles of your shoulder blade to ensure that the ball is always positioned in the centre of the socket so as to avoid pinching, inflammation and pain. Impingement can occur if any of these shoulder muscles become tight or weak or if the neck and upper back are too stiff to allow for proper arm movement.

People that spend a large portion of their days sitting often become very weak in their shoulder blade muscles while at the same time also becoming tight in their chest, upper back and neck. Others spend a lot of their workday doing repetitive movements with their arm that also can create irritation and muscle imbalances in the shoulder. At night many of us tend to lay on our ‘favourite’ side while sleeping which squeezes the blood out of the shoulder thus causing further irritation and preventing recovery from the strain during the day.

If you start to have shoulder pain the best strategy is to avoid the movement that is creating the pain and to ice the shoulder for 15 minutes 2-3 times per day for the initial 3 days (after 3 days switch to heat for 20 mins, 2-3 times per day to increase blood flow/healing). Make sure to continue to move the shoulder in motions that don’t hurt in order to prevent your shoulder from getting stiff. Also try as best as you can to not sleep on the painful shoulder at night in order to allow healing.

If the pain does not subside within a week it is advisable to see your health care professional so that the specific reason for the shoulder pain can be diagnosed. In physiotherapy, pain control and stretching out tight muscles are usually the initial goals. Treatment then fairly quickly progresses to focusing on strengthening specific muscles as well as increasing overall flexibility. Often the conversation of prevention will focus on daily stretching or Yoga as well as emphasizing good posture while sitting.

I hope that you have learned a little bit about how the shoulder works and what can cause shoulder pain. If you are starting to have nagging shoulder pain or tightness, remember that it is much easier to deal now then ‘down the road’. Happy spring (summer) everyone!

A Pain in the Achilles

A Pain in the Achilles

Physiotherapy » Posts Tagged "inflammation"

A Pain in the Achilles

The Achilles tendon is the strongest tendon in the body, connecting the calf muscles to their insertion on the heel bone, or calcaneus. Achilles tendinitis is a common overuse injury in sport. It can be a killjoy – it affects walking, hiking and many sporting activities.

Pain in the rearfoot can arise from several sources – the most common site is in the mid-portion of the tendon, or at its insertion point at the heel. Classically, the tendon becomes thickened, stiff and very tender to touch. Other conditions that can cause pain in this region are bursitis, and rarely – a neuroma in the nerve that runs along the inside of the tendon.
The term “Achilles tendinitis” is somewhat misleading, “itis” meaning inflammation. Often, the tendon’s cellular make-up is degraded, and the more accurate term would be “tendonosis”, or “tendinopathy”. This is why anti-inflammatory medications often don’t work – as the underlying problem may not be inflammation.

There are several factors that predispose to Achilles tendinopathy: years of running (runners have a 30 times greater risk of tendinopathy), a recent change or poor choice of footwear, excessive calf tightness or calf weakness, and most commonly – a sudden increase in activity, such as speed, distance or volume of uphill running. Non-runners can develop Achilles pain – some have feet that pronate excessively. In over-pronators, a whipping motion of the heel is created which produces strain in the mid-portion of the Achilles tendon.

Your physiotherapist can provide several different treatment options for Achilles tendinopathy. These vary according to the location of the lesion and whether the condition is acute or chronic. A physiotherapy assessment is helpful to identify whether there are biomechanical factors that have contributed to the problem. It is important to rule out a partial tear – which may require a diagnostic ultrasound to determine.

An eccentric heel drop program works very well with chronic tendinopathy in the mid-third of the Achilles tendon. This is a graded exercise protocol. The heel is lowered over the edge of a step repeatedly, one set with the knee flexed, another with the knee straight. The volume of repetitions and speed are increased over time, generally 6-8 weeks.

Therapeutic ultrasound, and friction massage, performed by your physiotherapist, can help. Both provide an increase in the volume of collagen, an important component of tendon tissue. If tight areas in the calf muscles are found, massage, acupuncture and soft tissue release can help. Other issues in the rearfoot, such as a stiff subtalar joint (just above the heel) can be mobilized to help improve shock absorption. In some cases, a temporary slight heel lift can provide short-term relief. Kinesiotape, a one-way stretch tape applied along the tendon and margins of the calf muscle often provides immediate reduction in pain as the tendon is repairing. Relative rest and a change in training patterns for runners is critical in many cases to allow the cells in the tendon to repair and regenerate.

In cases where the tendon problems don’t respond to conservative therapy, there are other medical options available.

Sun City Physiotherapy Locations


1468 St. Paul Street, Kelowna, BC
Phone: 250-861-8056
more info


103-437 Glenmore Road, Kelowna, BC
Phone: 250-762-6313
more info

Lake Country

40-9522 Main St., Lake Country, BC
Phone: 250-766-2544
more info

Lower Mission

3970 Lakeshore Road, Kelowna, BC
Phone: 778-699-2006
more info