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The shoulder is one of the most integral body parts, and also one of the most complicated. The shoulder is made up of a complex ball-and-socket joint, several supporting ligaments, and many muscular attachments that assist with movement. A damaged shoulder could make everyday activities difficult and can affect your ability to perform at your job. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 4 million people a year in the U.S. seek medical attention for shoulder problems.

Because the shoulder is so complex, shoulder pain could be any number of things. Pain can arise from a direct injury, overuse of the shoulder, or underuse of the shoulder. The most common ailments suffered from shoulder pain include:

  • Torn rotator cuff
  • Shoulder fracture
  • Arthritis of the shoulder
  • Shoulder dislocation or separation
  • Tendinitis
  • Shoulder bursitis

If you suffer from a shoulder injury resulting from a direct fall, blow, or accident, seek medical attention immediately. If you have persistent shoulder pain, you should make an appointment with your doctor for a diagnosis. Tests like x-rays, MRIs, or arthrograms may be used to assess damage. Depending on what’s wrong with your shoulder, your doctor may recommend physical therapy to relieve pain and improve mobility.

If you’re advised to see a physical therapist, an initial evaluation will be given to determine what state your shoulder is in, and a program will be developed for your rehabilitation. The amount and nature of your pain, the range of motion, and the strength of your shoulder will assessed. The number of days a week and the amount of time you spend in therapy will vary greatly from person to person. The type of injury, severity of the injury, and how you quickly you recover will be different for everyone, but your physical therapist will likely give you an estimated time you’ll spend in treatment.