Why Does My Shoulder Hurt?

Shoulder pain is one of the most common things that we treat at our clinic in Raymond Terrace. A common cause of pain in the shoulder is what is known as 'impingement syndrome'. Basically, it is caused by the tendons of the rotator cuff, or the bursa (fluid filled sac which prevents friction) impacting on the bones of the shoulder.

Shoulder impingement can cause significant pain and disability and affect many aspects of your life, many of which you didn't even think of before you had pain (like brushing your teeth or putting your bra on!).


  • Pain may present at the top of the shoulder, down the front or side of the arm and down to the elbow.

  • Pain when lifting the affected shoulder. It is often worse when the arm is at shoulder height and will disappear when it is higher. This is known as a painful arc.

  • Pain when lying on the affected shoulder.

  • Pain and/or weakness when lifting

  • Pain putting your hand behind you head or behind your back

  • Sometimes symptoms can be experienced at rest.


Shoulder impingement can often be diagnosed with a thorough clinical examination by one of our expert therapists at Terrace Physio Plus. Other imaging such as an x-ray, ultrasound or MRI can be used to investigate associated injuries such as rotator cuff tendinopathy or tears and bursitis.

Risk Factors

If you work in a job or play sports that require repeated overhead lifting or movements, or if you are lifting heavy loads over head you are more likely to develop a shoulder impingement.


A number of techniques can be used to treat shoulder impingement syndrome. Often massage, dry needling, ultrasound, supportive taping and anti-inflammatories can help decrease the symptoms. Stretching and strengthening exercises for the shoulder will help restore normal function to the shoulder. Your physiotherapist can tailor an appropriate program for you if you are experiencing these symptoms, and these exercises are the critical element to your return to pain-free function.

Cortisone injections can help reduce the symptoms of shoulder impingement if conservative measures fail to do so. This, however, will not address any underlying muscle strength or flexibility issues that may exist.

Occasionally conservative measures may fail due to a few different reasons. In these rare cases, surgery may be required in order to obtain a full recovery.

How long does it take to recover?

Recovery time differs between people. Some may only take a couple of weeks, whilst others may take months to recover from all their symptoms completely. It is important to remain patient and compliant with the treatment given to you by your physiotherapist (and we all know how hard that can be!).

Give us a call on (02) 4983-1765 or shoot us an email at admin@terracephysioplus.com.au and we would be happy to help you out further.

 (Author: Lauren Denniss)