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Why does my shoulder hurt?

With the days getting longer and warmer, this usually signals an increase in people doing maintenance jobs outside. For those of you who spend your work days sitting behind a desk, getting active outside on the weekend can be a high priority. We like to call people like you ‘weekend warriors’!

As physiotherapists, we are always encouraging people to be more physically active. As a population, we are all getting fatter and this poses serious risks to our long term health and wellbeing, as well as that of our children. So I don’t want to put you off being active and doing those jobs outside. But….at this time of year, we often see an increase in the number of shoulder injuries.


Well, many people attempt overhead jobs such as trimming trees, painting, cleaning gutters and the like. If you have not been very active over the winter months, and enjoyed comfort foods by the warm fire, chances are you have lost some strength and conditioning in your shoulder and back muscles. This means that when you are doing overhead work, you may not be doing it with the best technique or the best posture.

The result – overload on some structures within the shoulder, in particular the rotator cuff. If your rotator cuff gets overloaded, this can lead to subacromial impingement and bursitis, two conditions which are very common in shoulders. In severe cases, you can even get a tear in the rotator cuff (usually associated with some sort of trauma).

What can you do about it?

Pay attention to your body and listen to your pain. If it hurts, think about what you are doing and why it might be hurting. If you are trying to lift something that is too heavy, get help. If you have been doing a job repetitively, take a break and come back to it later. If it still hurts, then have a longer rest, try icing your shoulder and letting it settle down. If it still hurts, then consider a physiotherapy appointment to check the structures of your shoulder. It may be that some simple shoulder strengthening exercises are all that is needed to get your shoulder back to normal. Sometimes, doing exercises for ‘maintenance’ of your shoulder can be very helpful in preventing aggravations in the future.

Want to find out more about shoulder injuries?

Speak to one of our physiotherapists today!

Angela Willsmore

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