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How Is Shoulder Pain Treated by a Chiropractor?

Learn how a chiropractor treats shoulder pain from Dr. Karen Erickson in this Howcast video.


Chiropractors successfully treat shoulder pain on a regular basis. There are so many causes of shoulder pain, and it's actually something that we see a lot in our practice. I think that's because there are so many things that cause shoulder pain. Everything from poor sleeping positions to carrying heavy bags on our shoulders, backpacks in children, and then using handheld devices and computers for long hours all contribute to straining the shoulder.

Your chiropractor will examine your entire musculo-skeletal system but specifically, of course, focus on your shoulder. We want to really understand the connection between all the parts of your body. So we'll examine your spine, the shoulder, the elbow, and the wrist and hands, so that we understand how it's all working together. We want to understand whether it's a bony problem, whether there's arthritis or a bone spur, of if there's a soft tissue problem in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments. Sometimes a chiropractor may order an x-ray or another diagnostic test like an EMG or an MRI, so that we can more carefully diagnose your condition.

Shoulder problems are treated by adjusting the spine to make sure that the nerves that go to the shoulder are functioning properly, and also adjusting the various joints that make up the shoulder complex. The adjustments that we do are very gentle and very specific. It can go a long way to restoring normal range of motion and allowing the muscles to function properly so they contract when you want them to contract and relax when you want them to relax.

Chiropractors also use a variety of modalities as part of your treatment plan, which might include things like heat or ice, ultrasound, cold laser, stretching and strengthening exercises. And your chiropractor will most likely give you very careful home instructions, things like how to sleep, what position to sleep in at night, how to work at your computer so that you're ergonomically correct, how to carry things so that you don't put a strain on your shoulder. You may also use homeopathic creams that contain arnica, sometimes essential oils, or other topical creams that help decrease inflammation.

In my practice we treat a lot of shoulder problems, and many of them are garden variety shoulder strains that respond well to conservative care. But I also manage patients that have severe shoulder injuries, that have torn rotator cuffs, and in these cases I actually work with orthopedists who are shoulder specialists to co-manage these patients. These may be patients that don't really require surgery or aren't surgical candidates for one reason or another. But the care I give them can really make them more comfortable and can manage their pain so that they can avoid surgery.

It's important to remember that the shoulder is a fragile joint in a lot of ways, and that's why we have such great range of motion in our shoulders. But if you have a shoulder injury, it's really important to get it checked out sooner than later so that you can resolve it before it turns into a more chronic problem.

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