Treatment methods for chronic shoulder pain

How to find the relief you need

Experts estimate that 1 in 4 Canadian adults – about 7.63 million people – live with some type of chronic pain. For many, this takes the form of chronic shoulder pain.

Whether you spend your days lifting weights, working a physically demanding job, or even sitting at a desk, everyday movements can leave your shoulders sore. Sometimes it’s a variety of factors that contribute to your pain, making it hard to pin down one specific cause.

Fortunately, specialists can not only help patients cope with shoulder pain but take action to limit its effects. Best of all, there are many natural treatment methods for chronic shoulder pain that are both safe and effective.

Keep reading to learn more!

What causes chronic shoulder pain?

The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the human body. The ball-and-socket design allows for a wide range of motion, but it also leaves it prone to injury. 

Some of the most common reasons for chronic shoulder pain include:

  • Tendonitis
  • Arthritis
  • Torn cartilage
  • Rotator cuff injury
  • Dislocated shoulder
  • Frozen shoulder syndrome
  • Swollen bursa sacs (bursitis)
  • Repetitive strain injury (RSI)
  • Shoulder impingement syndrome
  • A pinched nerve in the neck or shoulder
  • An autoimmune condition such as fibromyalgia

“Chronic” pain lasts longer than six months and can occur anywhere in the shoulder joint (the bones, cartilage, or soft tissues). For some people, the pain is constant. For others, the pain may only occur during a certain movement or position.

Does there have to be a specific cause?

Not necessarily. Sometimes the cause is obvious, for example, as the result of a fall or a motor vehicle accident. Other times, the pain comes on gradually, such as with the onset of arthritis or tendonitis.

Of course, your pain could also be the result of a number of different factors, especially if you’ve been dealing with it for years. Perhaps you had a rotator cuff tear that led to frozen shoulder syndrome. Or maybe you switched from a long-time desk job to a more physical job (or vice versa) and your body is struggling to adapt to the change.

Whatever the case, it’s important to get as accurate a diagnosis as possible. That way, you can seek the right treatment for your chronic shoulder pain.

How treatment approaches to shoulder pain have changed

Traditional treatment methods for shoulder pain often include prescription pain medications.

Rather than find the source of the pain, some doctors immediately prescribe painkillers, which is part of the reason behind Canada’s opioid crisis. Meanwhile, other doctors are quick to recommend surgery or steroid injections.

True, these traditional treatments may help with some conditions. However, it’s always best to try conservative, natural treatments first. With the right help from health professionals, your body has the amazing ability to heal itself.

Professionals who can help you

Speaking of medical professionals, who can help you with chronic shoulder pain treatment? Here are a few avenues you could consider.

Medical doctor

Before you seek any kind of treatment, it’s best to consult with your family or primary care doctor.

This is especially important if you haven’t yet identified the cause of your shoulder pain. Your doctor can order imaging tests and provide a diagnosis that enables you to take the next step in finding the best treatment.


The goal of physiotherapy is to address underlying physical problems and restore the body’s natural strength and mobility. When you work with a physiotherapist, they’ll develop a treatment plan that includes therapy sessions, at-home exercises, and lifestyle changes.

Massage therapist

Is your shoulder pain caused by tight muscles or soft tissue injury? If so, you could benefit from a series of massages from a certified massage therapist. This could include sports massage, deep tissue massage, or relaxation massage, depending on your needs.


Acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a medical system that’s been in place for thousands of years. The goal is to unblock areas of congestion inside the body and allow your energy, or qi, to flow freely. Your acupuncturist can use a variety of natural methods to restore balance in your body and eliminate the root cause of your shoulder pain.


If you think chiropractors only treat back pain, think again. Chiropractic care also addresses nerve pain (a common underlying cause of shoulder pain), as well as joint problems and dysfunction.

How to treat chronic shoulder pain

The exact treatment for your shoulder pain will depend on the root cause. When you visit one of the professionals mentioned above, they might recommend treatment methods such as:

  • Stretches to reduce muscle tension and improve range of motion
  • Applying hot packs, ice packs, or alternating both hot and cold
  • Gentle exercises to strengthen muscles and soft tissues
  • How to balance rest with healthy movement
  • Improving your posture while sitting, standing, or working
  • Making other lifestyle adjustments to reduce symptoms of arthritis or RSI

Just like there are many things that contribute to your shoulder pain, it will likely take a combination of treatment methods to eliminate it.

Keep in mind, too, that these natural treatments aren’t a one-time “quick fix.” Your shoulder pain didn’t start overnight, and it won’t be cured overnight. However, with the right combination of therapies and at-home care, you’ll soon be on your way to reducing or even eliminating your shoulder pain.

Get help for your chronic shoulder pain

As we’ve discussed, there are many contributing factors to shoulder pain. The good news is that there is an equal number of effective treatments for managing chronic shoulder pain.

Have you been wondering how to treat your chronic shoulder pain? Do you live in the Ottawa area? If so, the Elysian Wellness Centre is ready to facilitate your journey to pain-free optimal health.

Click here to contact us and learn more about our services. You can also give us a call at (613) 706-3432 for a phone consultation.

Michael McCreight, Registered Physiotherapist

Mike is an experienced and talented physiotherapist who holds a BSc in human kinetics and an MSc in physiotherapy. He doesn't believe in a “one-size-fits-all” approach and is committed to providing client-centred care, tailoring each treatment plan to each patient’s unique needs and personal goals.

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