The Shoulder: the human body’s most flexible but most unstable joint.


The shoulder is a ball and socket joint and it’s 1 of our most flexible joints as human beings. Our shoulders can be moved in directions like no other joint. Because of its flexibility and range of motion, we can do things like scratch our back,  paint a wall from top to bottom, throw a football or pitch a baseball.

Our shoulder movement and flexibility combined with the fact it is a joint that we use on an everyday basis does mean that it can become unstable. The shoulder is held together by muscles, tendons and ligaments but it is typically known as one of our bodies most unstable joints often causing pain and discomfort.

Am I at risk?

Does your job involve a lot of  shoulder movement and range of motion? If so, you may be at a higher risk for shoulder injuries than others.

The following individuals may have a higher susceptibility than most for shoulder pain and discomfort:

  • Painters
  • Construction workers
  • Movers
  • Tennis players, baseball players, swimmers

Each and every one of us is at risk for shoulder injuries, especially as we age and become more senior.

Causes of Shoulder Pain:


Symptoms of shoulder injury include:

  • Attempted raising of the arm to the front or side: Painful
  • Pain which lasts longer than 48 hours
  • Edema/swelling in the arm, hand and shoulder
  • Pain during sleep or while attempting to lay on your side
  • Pain and generalized arm weakness which limits everyday tasks such as driving a car, lifting a bag, reaching up, or pushing open a heavy door
  • Problems or difficulty with carrying or picking up your child or grandchild
  • Overall decreased use the upper extremity

Overuse and trauma are the most common causes of shoulder pain and reasons the shoulder is prone to injury. Musculature that provides stability to the shoulder is known as the rotator cuff. There are 4 muscles which converge at the shoulder region which form a tendon like sheath known as the rotator cuff. This rotator cuff over time can suffer from wear and tear.  There does not need to be that one traumatic event that causes shoulder pain and discomfort.   Causes of shoulder pain can be from years of poor posture or improper movement patterns. I often see muscular people at the gym show signs of shoulder pain. Internal rotator muscles of the shoulder such as the pec major (chest) is a popular muscle to work out. It seems the “chest” in many individuals is overworked whereas the external rotator muscles of the shoulder (back of the shoulder and the upper back itself) is commonly under worked.  This leads to an abnormal muscular balance which can contribute to the gradual elevation of the humerus bone (located in the upper arm) thus impinging the supraspinatus tendon between the head of the humerus and the acromion. This is one cause of shoulder pain which leads to “impingement syndrome”. Don’t worry, the Physical Therapists at Back In Motion Sarasota Physical Therapy are the leading experts in Sarasota Florida in fast acting methods to eliminate shoulder pain forever. Learn more about our shoulder program

Repetitive stress injuries can lead to excessive “wear and tear” of the shoulder muscles, joint capsule, tendons and ligaments. Even under use or protection of a painful shoulder and arm can lead to adhesive capsulitis(commonly known as frozen shoulder syndrome).

Rotator cuff injuries including tears, frozen shoulder syndrome, and impingement syndrome are all very common causes of shoulder pain that the licensed physical therapists and occupational therapists at Back In Motion Sarasota Physical Therapy treat each and every day with a very high success rate.

Reach Out To Your Physical Therapist

Strain and stress of the shoulder joint is 1 of the most common causes of shoulder pain and injury. However…when you don’t use the muscles on a regular basis, the shoulder and arm becomes weaker. In this case “If you don’t use it, you lose it” really does apply.


The exercising to the best of the ability of your shoulder and arm by medium intensity activity, can limit the risk of shoulder injury. When you don’t use the muscles on a regular basis not only will the muscles weaken, but the ligaments can tighten, and blood flow can lessen. Over time, these mentioned factors can lead to joint degeneration, arthritis and be one of the many causes of shoulder pain.

Back In Motion Sarasota Physical Therapy has the answer.

  1. Exercise and activity such as walking with full arm movement, swimming, golf, & tennis can be of benefit. These activities can slow and/or limit the onset and intensity of shoulder pain. Remember this though “if it hurts, don’t do it”.
  2. Ergonomics, body mechanics, and posture: Ask your physical therapist at Back In Motion Sarasota Physical Therapy if your posture or body mechanics need to be corrected.
  3. Shoulder flexibility and strength: balanced muscles between the shoulders, spine and upper back, chest and stomach all work together to keep your shoulders pain free and with appropriate posturing.

I mentioned this before, but “if it hurts, don’t do it”. Use your common sense against causing shoulder pain and injury. Do NOT push yourself too hard while performing exercise or activity involving the shoulder, especially if there is pain or discomfort. Ease into any exercise program and try not to do too much exercise or activity with too much intensity. If you do experience some shoulder pain and it is MILD, use ice for approximately 15 minutes (remember, do not put the ice directly on your skin) and rest your shoulder by limiting any shoulder activity or over activity. If pain persists for more than 1-2 days, call Back In Motion, Sarasota Physical Therapy at (941) 925-2700. Don’t ignore the pain. The longer you delay, the more serious your problem may become. The Physical Therapy team and Occupational Therapy team at Back In Motion, Sarasota Physical Therapy are your local experts in addressing causes of shoulder pain in and around Sarasota, Florida.

The sooner your shoulder pain is addressed, the sooner you can return to your favorite activities with a pain free shoulder, elbow, arm and hand!

About the Author Tim Burnell, PT

Tim Burnell is the Lead Physical Therapist at Back In Motion Sarasota. He has over two decades of clinical experience. He takes pride in getting to the root of the problem which helps get his clients better...Faster! He is a family man & enjoys spending time with the love of his life, Monique. He has 2 children & a dog named Annie. Tim's son, Andre' is 11 years old and his daughter Joliebelle (nicknamed Pooky) is 7 years old. He enjoys visiting his wife's side of the family in New Orleans and his side of the family in Vermont. Tim grew up in Vermont, went to Physical Therapy School in Alabama, got his first job at Tulane Hospital in New Orleans and moved to Sarasota Florida after Hurricane Katrina in 2006.

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