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Why does my shoulder hurt?

The shoulder allows itself to have lots of movement at the same time as being very strong and robust. It is very good at doing the things it is designed to do such as pushing, pulling and lifting. Shoulder complaints are very common and can be concerning if they are very painful. However, a shoulder complaint is rarely due to anything serious.


Will I get better?

Most shoulder complaints will improve with time and some simple steps to help yourself. At times it might not feel that your shoulder can get better, but very few people need any extra care than the steps below.


What can I do to help myself?

The best advice is to continue to use your shoulder as normally as you can. It may be sensible to make some adjustments to what you do with your shoulder whilst it is sore, but it is important to know that using your shoulder is safe and the right thing to do. Ideas might include taking regular rest breaks when using your arm, adjusting how you do certain activities or asking for help and assistance.


What else can I do?

Exercise, particularly strengthening exercise, is the best medicine for most aches and pains including shoulders, even very sore shoulders. Exercise can be anything that challenges your muscles and does not need to mean going to the gym or the swimming pool, as not everyone enjoys these things.

Looking at the things that make you shoulder sore and trying to make some changes or adjustments often allows exercises to work even better.


But my shoulder is sore, should I really be using it and doing exercise?

Yes. Your shoulder is built for normal movement and you are safe to exercise and use your shoulder despite the fact that it might be a bit uncomfortable. Often, if you start avoiding things that you find difficult, it becomes more challenging to help your shoulder.


What about an X-ray or scan?

Interestingly, in most cases, having an X-ray or a scan is not useful in helping your shoulder to get better. Of course, in certain situations they are important and necessary, but often the results will show you things that are meant to be there or are normal for the age of your shoulder. That might mean that in a number of cases, what the X-ray shows is not really related to why your shoulder might be sore, which is why your GP or physio may have said that they might not be needed.


I still feel that I need some help.

If your shoulder is still causing you issues and you feel you would like to seek some help with our physiotherapy team, you can refer yourself without needing a GP referral.

Top exercise ideas

Here are a selection of exercises that are most useful for helping shoulder complaints. 

Exercise A

Standing close to a wall/door. With your elbow bent, turn your hand away from your stomach so that the back of your wrist touches the wall. Continue to push into the wall. Hold this position for 15- 30 seconds and then relax.

Exercise B

Standing close to a wall/door. With your elbow straight and a few inches in front of your leg, push the back of your hand into the wall. Hold this position for 15- 30 seconds and then relax.

Exercise C

Standing in front of a table or work surface. With one foot slightly in front of the other and keeping your hands on the table/work surface, lean forwards so your head goes between your arms.

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