Natural Solutions for Shoulder Pain in the Chiropractic Practice

Natural Solutions for Shoulder Pain in the Chiropractic Practice

Most shoulder problems happen when soft tissues in the joint and shoulder region break down. They can be caused by repetitive motion in which the shoulder is engaged and can be compounded when that repetitive motion is performed in an unsafe manner especially when doing manual labor. Age tends to be a factor in shoulder injury and pain but shoulder pain is not exclusive to any group. Shoulder pain tends to be caused by irritation of the joint or surrounding tissue.

The shoulder is a joint made up of ball and socket that enables the shoulder to:

  • move forward and backward

  • allow the arm to rotate in a circular motion

  • hinge out and up away from the body.

Shoulder problems and ensuing pain vary widely. Here are brief descriptions of each of the major conditions.

  • Dislocation: when the ball of your top arm bone pops out of the socket. You may experience some or all of these symptoms: pain, swelling, muscle spasms, numbness, weakness and bruising.

  • Separation: when the ligaments between the collarbone and the shoulder blade area tear. Pain, tenderness and/or a bump in the middle of the top of your shoulder may indicate shoulder separation.

  • Rotator cuff disease (i.e. tendinitis[1], bursitis[2]): when tendons in the shoulder inflame or become red, sore or swollen. You may notice a slow onset of pain in your upper arm, difficulty sleeping on your shoulder, pain lifting your arm above your head, or pain radiating down the arm.

  • Rotator cuff tear: a tear in one or more of the tendons in the rotator cuff. Characteristic symptoms are pain over the deltoid(3) muscle at the top of the arm, pain on the outer side of the shoulder when lifting the arm out to the side, weakness and/or a clicking/popping noise when moving the arm.

  • Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis): extreme stiffness or immobility in the shoulder joint usually following injury and caused by adhesions(4) in the joint and inflammation of the upper arm. This may cause more discomfort at night than during the day.

  • Fracture: usually in the collarbone or upper arm bone, fractures cause severe pain, redness and bruising. The bones may also appear out of alignment.

  • Arthritis: 1) Osteoarthritis: degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone, most commonly from middle age onward. It often results in bone spurs that damage tendons and ligaments of the rotator cuff. It causes pain and stiffness, especially in the hip, knee, and thumb joints. 2) Rheumatoid arthritis: a chronic progressive disease causing inflammation in the joints and resulting in painful deformity and immobility, especially in the fingers, wrists, feet, and ankles. Both types of arthritis cause pain and restriction in the movement of the shoulder.

Many people think chiropractors are limited to care of the spine with spinal adjustment however chiropractors are well trained for helping shoulder injuries. After an X-ray or MRI is ordered and based on what these tests state, Dr. Wagner may start a short series of gentle adjustments to the shoulder to shift it forward or backward and align the joint. This is a mobility technique aimed at creating more “space” inside the joint complex. In addition to performing manual adjustment not just to the shoulder but to your neck and upper back, we may use a drop table piece(a) or reflex-type hammer tool and percussion therapy instruments (5). Finally, treatment for shoulder pain after the adjustment may include interferential current therapy(6), low level laser therapy(7), acupuncture, shockwave therapy(8), massage and/or trigger point therapy(9).

Patient education including proper physical therapy exercises, lifestyle modifications and home physical therapy stretches and strengthening exercise to complement the care you receive from Wagner Chiropractic will help not only in shoulder pain healing but proactively to prevent future incidents. Call us today and we can get started by performing an orthopedic exam of your shoulder. An X-ray or MRI can be ordered to help us determine what is wrong. With the proper diagnosis the best treatment options will be weighed so that you can decide what plan best suits you. Call us today for a complimentary consult.

  • inflammation of a tendon, most commonly from overuse but also from infection or rheumatic disease

  • inflammation of a bursa (a fluid-filled sac or saclike cavity, especially one countering friction at a joint), typically one in the knee, elbow or shoulder

  • each of the three parts of a deltoid muscle, attached at the front, side, and rear of the shoulder

  • an abnormal union of membranous surfaces due to inflammation or injury

  • drop table piece: a specially designed adjustable ‘table’ that allows the chiropractor to adjust the patient’s spine using less force

  • percussion therapy: device used to treat pain for back, sciatica, neck, leg, foot, plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, arthritis, sports

  • interferential current therapy: stimulates muscles to help relieve deep tissue pain through penetration that can be adjusted to stimulate nerve fibers for increased blood flow

  • sometimes also referred to as low level light therapy or photobiomodulation (PBM)–a low intensity light therapy

  • shockwave therapy: acoustic waves applied to create faster and long-term healing and regeneration of tissues

  • trigger point therapy: a manual therapy for treating hyper-irritable spots in the skeletal muscle



“Shoulder Problems.” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 10 Apr. 2017,

“Chiropractic management of shoulder pain and dysfunction of myofascial origins using ischemic compression techniques.” The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association. U. S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Sept. 2002.