How Physical Therapy Can Help With Shoulder Pain

Pain located in the shoulder is debilitating at times. It can affect your ability to reach, carry, lift items, and even disrupt your sleep.

If you experience shoulder pain, physical therapy is often a suitable treatment option. J. Scott Colombo, PT, DPT, CSCS, a physical therapist at our outpatient rehabilitation location in the South Hills, works with patients to relieve their pain and get them back to daily life.

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Causes of Shoulder Pain

The shoulder is a very movable ball-and-socket joint. It includes the shoulder blade (scapula), collarbone (clavicle), and shoulder bone (humeral head). The soft tissue that surrounds the joint helps provide both movement and stability.

Excessive repetitive lifting, working overhead, or sudden increases in activity can result in shoulder injuries, including:


Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursa. The bursa is a fluid-filled sac present in areas of the body where friction is common, such as the shoulder.

Rotator cuff tears

Inflammation of the rotator cuff can cause pain in the front of the shoulder or on the outside of the arm. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that rotate the shoulder. It also assists in elevating the shoulder when the arm is reaching.

Large rotator cuff tears will most likely require surgical repair. Small rotator cuff tears are often treatable with anti-inflammatory medications and/or injections. Physical therapy can also help treat small rotator cuff tears.

Shoulder impingement

Shoulder impingement can result from a strength imbalance between the deltoid and rotator cuff muscles. It can also result from a flexibility imbalance between the front and back of the shoulder.


Tendonitis is an inflammation of the part of the muscle that attaches to the bone.

How Physical Therapy Can Help

UPMC Rehabilitation Institute can help patients strengthen and restore muscle balance in the rotator cuff and around the shoulder blades. Improving general shoulder strength and flexibility will allow your shoulder structures to move better and get you back to your daily life and activities.

“At UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, we are here to help,” says Colombo.

Our physical therapists will meet with you to evaluate your symptoms, range of motion, flexibility, and strength.

“Once an evaluation is completed and a patient’s goals are established, we are able to create a customized plan and exercise program to work on any imbalances found in one’s strength or mobility.”

For more information about outpatient rehabilitation or to schedule an evaluation, call 1-888-723-4277.

About UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers inpatient, outpatient, and transitional rehabilitation, as well as outpatient physician services so that care is available to meet the needs of our patients at each phase of the recovery process. Renowned physiatrists from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, as well as highly trained physical, occupational, and speech therapists, provide individualized care in 12 inpatient units within acute care hospitals and over 80 outpatient locations close to home and work.