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Occupational Therapy and the Shoulder

Common shoulder conditions include rotator cuff tears, fractures, adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder), impingements, etc. Individuals with musculoskeletal conditions of the shoulder experience common symptoms like pain, decreased strength, and limited range of motion (ROM), which limit their participation in meaningful daily activities. Through purposeful treatment activities, Occupational Therapists help people learn compensatory strategies, environmental modifications, and more, to make their day-to-day lives more productive and positive. Occupational Therapists aim to assist individuals improve from these conditions to get them back to doing the things they enjoy.

What Occupational Therapy can do to help to improve function and decrease pain for these disorders:

  • Adhesive Capsulitis: combining exercise (stretching and ROM), joint mobilizations, cryotherapy (ex. cold packs), and electrotherapy

  • Proximal Humeral Fractures: early controlled ROM therapy with short-term sling wear

  • Combined Neck & Shoulder Pain: graded resistive training specifically for the neck and shoulder region

  • General Shoulder Pain: combination of stretching, strengthening exercises, and joint mobilization techniques

  • Subacromial Impingement Syndrome: exercises (ROM, strengthening, stretching), neuromuscular re-education, and joint mobilizations

  • Rotator Cuff Repair: combination of ROM exercises, joint mobilizations, and progressive tendon force exercises of the rotator cuff muscles

  • Physical modalities such as heat, cryotherapy, electrotherapy, and ultrasound can help with decreasing pain in localized areas for various shoulder conditions


Marik, T. L., & Roll, S. C. (2017). Effectiveness of Occupational Therapy Interventions for Musculoskeletal Shoulder Conditions: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(1), 1–11. https://doi-org.prx

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