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Man holding his shoulder from shoulder pain

Lift the lid on shoulder pain and 5 helpful tips to understand why your shoulder hurts!

Whether you’re an office worker or a swimmer you can experience shoulder pain at any point in your life.

Shoulder pain can be extremely debilitating for some people and you may find your shoulder pain keeps reoccurring! There are many factors that can contribute to shoulder pain including repetitive tasks, certain movement and/or muscle patterns, or incorrect training or playing techniques.

The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body but from an anatomical point of view, the shoulder region is a pretty complex area. The shoulder really comprises four separate joints and a lot of muscles not to mention a bunch of nerves and other soft tissues such as ligaments and a large bursa.

There are therefore a lot of structures that can cause pain in and around the shoulder. Plus, structures from your neck, upper back, ribs and even specific organs, can refer pain into the shoulder. So that’s why it’s important to work out where the pain is coming from and the best way to help.

Quite often in clinic we will field questions like:

  • “Why does my shoulder hurt?”

  • “Why does my shoulder hurt when I work out?”

  • “Why does my shoulder hurt when I lay down?”

  • “Why does my shoulder hurt when I bench press?”

Considering these common questions, let’s lift the lid on why you may have shoulder pain!

Here are 5 tips to help you understand why your shoulder hurts:

  1. If you reach behind your back and there is pain located in the front or side of the shoulder, it may be coming from the actual shoulder itself (joint/tendon or muscles that cross the glenohumeral joint).
  2. If you move your neck and get shoulder pain, this could mean the pain is related to structures in your neck referring pain into the shoulder.
  3. If you take a deep breath and your shoulder hurts, the pain may be coming from the ribs or upper back.
  4. Sometimes whether you can sleep on your sore shoulder, and/or the position you need to sleep in, can help determine whether the pain is coming from your shoulder or your neck.
  5. If you take your arm across your body (say to unclip your seat belt) it could be coming from your AC (Acromioclavicular) joint.

These 5 points are general guidelines and if you experience any of these symptoms, your local Allsports physiotherapist can assist in working out what’s actually causing your shoulder to hurt.

It is very important to identify what’s going on with the shoulder and hence why a thorough assessment from your physiotherapist is pivotal to figuring out the factors contributing to the pain and dysfunction. Then following this we must work out a treatment plan and find out why the shoulder became sore in the first place.

Physiotherapy can be an extremely useful tool in helping to treat shoulder pain and its potential causes. But the big factor is working out what’s wrong and what’s causing the shoulder to hurt.[1]

Don’t let your shoulder pain stop you from your favourite exercise! If you let the pain linger it may become more bothersome, more persistent and develop into an actual injury. Don’t let this happen to you and get it looked at as soon as you can whilst it’s a niggle!

The good news – the majority of shoulder pain can be managed well with physiotherapy, advice and exercise, and most people have excellent outcomes.

To book an appointment you can visit our website, or click here to find your local Allsports clinic.


[1] Buchbinder, Rachelle., Green, Sally., Hetrick, Sarah. “Physiotherapy interventions for shoulder pain.” Cochrane database of systematic reviews (2003).