Massage Therapy and Physical Therapy for Shoulder Pain

Many people are affected with shoulder pain. Common injuries include rotator cuff syndrome, bicep tendonitis, AC joint sprains, and muscle strains. All are very common in people who are active with their arms. It doesn't have to be through throwing sports, either. Most people develop shoulder pain from everyday activities, especially if these activities are performed often. These are referred to as repetitive stress injuries.

The shoulder is a very mobile joint that is supported by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The shoulder is a ball and socket joint; the ball of the humerus sits in the socket of the scapula. There are over 10 muscles that function to control how a shoulder moves. Think of a big game of tug of war. Muscles pull in opposite directions to keep the ball in the correct position, and allow it to pivot as your raise your hand.

In Shoulders, What Hurts Is Not Always the Real Problem

If any of the muscles are not doing their job, it will affect the other muscles and tendons that support the shoulder. Often when muscle #1 gets hurt, #2 works twice as hard to make up for it. Eventually, #2 also gets hurt. This may cause an excessive amount of stress on a tendon #3. Many rotator cuff or bicep sprains are caused by the imbalance or weakness of muscles, which ended up straining a different tendon.

Physical therapy will address the pain and inflammation of the injured tendon, but it also needs to address the other muscles of the shoulder complex. If the other injured muscles are not properly treated, the shoulder will probably continue functioning less optimally. The wrong stress will keep getting placed on other tendons. When people describe a shoulder pain that keeps coming back with activity, or they always get a pain here with certain activity, they most likely have a problem with one of the stabilizing shoulder muscles.

Massage Therapy Treatment for Shoulder Pain

Massage therapy will work to decrease the pain, muscles spasms, and scar tissue in all of the shoulder muscles. But that is only half the job; massage therapy will also work the muscles that support or assist the scapula and humerus. Think about it. If the scapula is not properly supported and stabilized by its supporting muscles, then it cannot create a strong stabilizing anchor for the muscles that go from the scapula to the shoulder. Likewise, the pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and trapezius muscles all have important roles in either stabilizing the shoulder or moving the humerus.

Massage therapy is excellent at addressing muscle injuries, muscle spasms, and pain in all the muscles that are involved in "shoulder-tug-of-war." Then compliment massage therapy with physical therapy to establish muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility. An experienced provider doesn't treat what hurts on a shoulder. He or she will make sure every muscle is working and strong so chronic shoulder pain does not continue to occur.


I have had chronic shoulder pain. Every time I would work in the yard, paint, or do anything above my head my shoulder would hurt. The massage therapist found spots on the back of shoulder that were exceptionally painful to the touch. After some treatment with massage and physical therapy the pain disappeared. Thanks Team. Greg, Chandler AZ

I would have pain on the back and side of my shoulder from softball, and had Physical Therapy in the past. This time it started to hurt at night when I slept on it. After a few massage sessions the pain went away, and the PT was much more effective. Tim, Gilbert AZ

I started throwing at my son's baseball practice and developed rotator cuff pain again. I've had treatment in the past but this was better. The shoulder felt so much better after the massage and the strengthening went really quick. I haven't had pain since. Jeff, Chandler AZ

My neck and shoulders have hurt on and off through the years. I started having this sharp pain whenever I raised my arm. The physical therapy and massage therapy really helped me get better fast. I still do the stretches whenever I feel stiff and haven't had a problem since. Sara, Tempe AZ