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What Do Chiropractors Do for Shoulder Pain?

When people think of chiropractic care, they usually imagine back pain, neck pain, and headaches, as research STRONGLY supports chiropractic treatment for these complaints. But what about chiropractic care for shoulder pain?

In 2010 and again in 2014, the United Kingdom government published landmark studies that reviewed previously published research on various forms of treatment for MANY conditions, both musculoskeletal and non-musculoskeletal (like asthma). These reviews noted there is favorable scientific evidence for the use of chiropractic treatment with regards to shoulder-related conditions including shoulder girdle pain/dysfunction, rotator cuff pain, and adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder).

When doctors of chiropractic approach treatment for patients with shoulder pain, care typically focuses on restoring shoulder range of motion using various manipulative and mobilization techniques directed at the three joints of the shoulder: the glenohumeral (the ball & socket joint), the acromioclavicular (AC) joint (clavicle & scapula), and the scapulothoracic joint (shoulder blade & rib cage). Chiropractic care may also include exercise training focused on restoring motion, strength, and stability to the muscles and soft tissues surrounding the shoulder region. A host of physical therapy modalities are also utilized as adjunctive procedures in many chiropractic settings at various stages of healing following shoulder injury. The goal of care is to return patients to their normal level of everyday function.

But what about shoulder pain AFTER surgery? Can chiropractic still help? A 2018 study found that post-surgical patients who received mid-back (thoracic spine) manipulation experienced significant increases in shoulder movement (flexion and abduction) and increased subacromial space measurements (in neutral and external rotation). The authors cited other studies that reported similar improvements in shoulder mobility as well as shoulder blade (scapular) kinematics (movement & stability).

Another study looked at changes in shoulder pain, disability, and perceived recovery after two sessions of upper thoracic and upper rib manipulation in patients with shoulder pain. Here too, participants reported significant improvement in all parameters tested that persisted for up to three months.

Given the solid research support of manual therapies directed at not only the shoulder but also to the neck, upper, and mid-back spinal regions, chiropractic care for patients with shoulder pain is simply a must!