Shoulder Pain and What You Can Do!

by Marcel Macdonald, Physiotherapist

Did you know…

  • The majority of people with shoulder pain who do not do anything about it will still have shoulder pain 6 months later.

  • A client who has injured their shoulder for the first time takes on average 12 weeks to get better if they seek treatment.

  • A client who has chronic shoulder pain or has had imaging that revealed a partial or full thickness rotator cuff tear takes on average 6 months to get better if they seek treatment.

  • 20% of clients with shoulder pain have neck involvement, which typically must improve for their shoulder pain to improve.

  • Over 80% of those with a shoulder injury who follow through on their plan of care will have a good recovery.


Leading experts in the field are now classifying shoulder pain into 4 groups:

1) Neck related shoulder pain

2) Painful and stiff shoulder

3) Painful and weak shoulder

4) Painful and unstable shoulder

Your physiotherapist will be able to assess and determine which type you have.


Treatment differs depending which group you are in:


If you have neck involvement, try this exercise:

Chin retractions

Standing tall with shoulders back, tuck chin straight back, nose and eyes should still be pointing straight forward. This helps to lengthen the back of the neck and open up the vertebrae.

– 1 second hold, 10 reps. Up to 3 sets. 2-3 times per day. It should not be painful.



If you have a stiff shoulder, try this exercise:

Over head shoulder stretch

Lay flat on your back, take a broom stick in both hands. Slowly raise that stick overhead with straight elbows while keeping lower back pressed into the floor. It should feel tight but not painful – 1 second hold, 10 reps. Up to 3 sets. 2 times per day.


If you have a weak shoulder, try this exercise:

External rotation with a theraband

Attach one end of a therband to a doorway or a secure structure. Stand sideways to the door with the band in your hand as shown with a small towel underneath your elbow. Slowly rotate your arm out away from the door keeping elbow tucked into the towel (click on the arrow to see end position)

Slowly rotate back to start. Keep elbow bent the whole time.

It is ok to feel mild discomfort but not feel painful – 10 reps, 3 sets. 2 times per day.



If you have an unstable shoulder, you likely had a trauma, are in a sling, and have been referred to physiotherapy. When recommended by your physiotherapist or referring physician, try this exercise:

Isometric external rotation

Stand in front of a door frame with palm on the frame elbow bend to 90 degrees and tucked into side. Gently press palm into frame as if you are trying to pull into your belly– 5 second hold, 10 reps. 2 times per day.

There should be minimal discomfort.


These are basic exercises which can help with the initial stages of your recovery. We would recommend a comprehensive physiotherapy assessment and treatment plan to give you the best likelihood to achieve your goals.



Marcel Macdonald is a physiotherapist and partner with reactive health in Charlottetown. He has a special interest in shoulder rehabilitation, having taken numerous continuing education

courses on the shoulder. He is currently working in conjunction with WCB on a pilot program with the goal of increasing the likelihood of a safe return to work for workers who have injured their shoulder.




One of his colleagues at the Charlottetown location, Megan Collings, who recently moved back to PEI, also has a special interest in treating the shoulder. She also has taken continuing education courses on the shoulder, and was an integrated shoulder rehabilitation physiotherapist with WCB in Alberta.






Want to learn more about shoulder health?

Book an appointment with Marcel or Megan today!


☎️ (902) 370-3146

📧 charlottetown@reactivehealth.com

📍78 Euston St, Charlottetown

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