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What is the shoulder?

The shoulder is one of the largest and most complex joints in the body. It is a ball and socket joint that is formed by the humerus or upper arm bone and scapula or shoulder blade. It is the major joint connecting the upper limb to the trunk. There are several other important structures that make up and stabilise the shoulder including bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bursae.


Is shoulder pain common?

Up to 67% of individuals will experience shoulder pain sometime during their lifetime. Shoulder pain is the second most commonly reported musculoskeletal injury behind back pain and places an enormous burden on the Australian healthcare system.

Why is this happening?

The humerus fits relatively loosely into the shoulder joint making it one of the most mobile joints in the human body, however, also making it vulnerable to injury.

Does physio help?

Shoulder pain or problems can have a major impact on quality of life, functional capacity, psychological distress and increases the risk of comorbidities, such as insomnia. Physiotherapy can help to manage pain and improve strength and flexibility. A physiotherapist can provide a variety of treatments, help patients understand their problem and get them back to their normal activities.

Common symptoms related to the shoulder

  • Pain deep in the joint, in the front or back of the shoulder or the upper part of the arm – sometimes described as a ‘catching pain’
  • Reduced movement and pain when moving the shoulder
  • Weakness of the shoulder/upper arm – there may be a sensation of the joint slipping out and back into the joint socket, or the shoulder can become completely dislodged (dislocated)
  • Lack of movement after a shoulder dislocation, usually due to pain
  • Pins and needles (tingling)
  • Burning sensation

Common conditions/injuries we treat

  • Avascular necrosis (death of bone tissue due to limited blood flow)
  • Brachial plexus injury
  • Broken arm
  • Broken collarbone
  • Bursitis (joint inflammation)
  • Cervical radiculopathy
  • Dislocated shoulder
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Impingement
  • Osteoarthritis (disease causing the breakdown of joints)
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory joint disease)
  • Rotator cuff injury
  • Separated shoulder
  • Septic arthritis
  • Sprains
  • Tendinitis
  • Tendon rupture
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome
  • Torn cartilage

Our approach

To gain a clear picture of your unique situation, we will consider all of the following:

We use this information to diagnose your back pain and help create a personalised treatment plan and movement program.

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  1. Ackerman, I, Page, R, Fotis, K, Schoch, P, Broughton, N, Brennan-Olsen, S, Bucknil, A & Cross, E 2018, ‘Exploring the personal burden of shoulder pain among younger people in Australia: protocol for a multicentre cohort study’, British Medical Journal, vol. 8.
  2. Fox, M, Witten, M & Lullo, C 2014, ‘Reducing obesity among people with disabilities’, Journal of Disability Policy Studies, vol. 25, pp. 175-185.
  3. Safe Work Australia (SWA) 2016, Statistics on Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders, Safe Work Australia, Canberra.
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