Many people think that chiropractors only treat the spine. The truth is, we treat muscles, joints, and nerves, the ENTIRE body really. That is why we see shoulder conditions in our office every day.

The shoulder is a ‘ball and socket joint’ and the most mobile joint in the body. Several muscles control the shoulder to allow it to move freely. When muscle problems occur in one area, other muscles are forced to compensate which causes the shoulder joint to function improperly. Furthermore, pain from the neck, elbow, and back can radiate to the shoulder making it even more complicated to diagnose.

Shoulder pain is common and will occur in 70% of people over their lifetime. The most common causes are repetitive stress movements and poor posture. Other reasons are osteoarthritis, trauma (falls), and stress tensing muscles. Finding the root cause of your shoulder pain is crucial in getting great results. 50% of shoulder pain will resolve in 8 – 12 weeks with 40% becoming chronic (lasting more than one year).

How We Treat Shoulder Pain In Portland, ME

Comprehensive Consultation and Exam

The consultation and examination are all focused on you, the patient, and finding the root cause of your pain. We start by getting to know you as a person and how your shoulder pain is impacting life. We then get an in-depth knowledge of your health history, the stressors in your life, and how your life is affected by your shoulder pain.

We then perform a complete comprehensive exam using our M.A.P.S. approach. Through specific testing of your nervous, muscular, and skeletal systems we determine where there are issues with Movement, Alignment (posture), Pain (stiffness), and Strength. We can then answer the questions every patient has: What’s wrong? How can we help? How long will it take to get better?

Specific Chiropractic Care for Shoulder Pain in Portland, ME

When we know the root cause of your shoulder pain, we can begin specific treatments to alleviate your pain. The shoulder has three osseous joints (bone connecting to bone) and one floating joint (shoulder blade on the mid-back).

Our chiropractic adjustments focus on restoring proper movement and alignment while relieving pain in each joint. These specific adjustments are designed to be comfortable, gentle, and targeted directly at the root cause of your pain.

The shoulder has many moving parts. When those parts don’t move properly it can irritate the nerves, muscles, and joint movement. That is where chiropractic care excels. Through joint manipulation, it restores proper muscle and joint movement to allow the brain to control the body better.

Soft Tissue and Muscle Work

The shoulder has 17 muscles that affect how it moves. When one muscle gets tight, the others get tight. To add to this, the muscle fibers also affect the joint capsule. When muscles stay tight, you can start to develop adhesions, or scar tissue, that results in further restriction, pain, and discomfort. This is why 40% of shoulder pain can last over one year.

Muscles move joints, and when muscles are tight joints do not move properly. That is why we combine chiropractic manipulation with muscle work to make sure your pain is reduced and your spine stays in alignment. We utilize several different specific muscle techniques including Active Release Technique, Graston technique, cupping, and trigger point therapy to provide improved movement and instant shoulder pain relief.

Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan

After the shoulder is moving properly through adjustments and muscle work, we then move on to teach patients how to care for their shoulder. We use a system that teaches the foundations for healthy shoulder movement starting with proper posture and stretching capped off with strength-building exercises for the shoulder musculature. Our goal is to get you out of pain fast, keep you that way, and teach you what you can do every day to stay feeling great.

With the shoulder, muscles must be balanced and strong to prevent the pain from returning. When patients team up with the doctors to stretch, strengthen their muscles, and do their corrective exercise programs at home, they not only feel better in the short term they also get long-lasting relief.

Common Causes of Shoulder Pain in Portland, ME


Bursae are sacs of fluid that are designed to help reduce friction between body parts. These are necessary for proper movement. When a bursa gets inflamed, swollen, and painful this is called bursitis. The result is the shoulder no longer moves properly resulting in more pain and reduced use of the shoulder.

The most common cause of bursitis is repetitive motion. This stress on the shoulder requires rest and treatment to help reduce inflammation and restore proper movement. To prevent future bursitis we teach proper posture, movement, and lifting techniques. Conservative care is the best option for bursitis and resolves a majority of the cases. However, if it does not improve steroid injection and anti-inflammatory medication may be needed.

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is a condition characterized by the inability to move the shoulder. There is no specific known cause, however, certain conditions can lead to frozen shoulder such as rotator cuff injury, a stroke, a fracture, trauma/injury, diabetes, and not moving the arm for long periods of time.

The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and then over time slowly improve movement. Many conditions will resolve in 6 – 12 months. Through chiropractic adjustments, stretches, and light exercises many patients feel a reduction in pain and see improvement. Other treatments commonly used are corticosteroid injections and numbing adjusted into the joint capsule. Occasionally manipulation under anesthesia or surgery is required.


Arthritis is inflammation in a joint. Osteoarthritis is ‘wear and tear’ over years that results in the breakdown of the cartilage and joint leading to pain, tenderness, swelling, and stiffness. The risk factors for osteoarthritis are age, weight, prior shoulder injuries, and repetitive stress to the shoulder.

Osteoarthritis is an irreversible condition, however, most patients are happy to find that it can be managed through proper chiropractic adjustments, stretches, and therapeutic exercises. The key to treating osteoarthritis addressing inflammation and doing daily maintenance stretches and exercises to keep the joint moving.

Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff (RTC) is a group of muscles responsible for allowing your shoulders to move properly. It is commonly referred to as the SITS muscles (Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres minor, and Subscapularis). When these muscles are injured it can cause pain with movement like lifting or twisting the arm. It is common with RTC injuries, however, to experience pain at night and while at rest.

RTC injuries are further classified as strains (repetitive movement, injury), partial tear, and full tear. Chiropractic treatment helps significantly with strains of repetitive movement, injury, and partial tears. Other treatments include physical therapy and steroid injections. With full tears of the RTC surgery is often needed. The proper diagnosis must be made early to address the root cause of your shoulder pain.

Shoulder Tendinitis

Shoulder tendinitis is an inflammatory condition of the shoulder most commonly due to repetitive movements at work or with sports. With 17 muscles affecting shoulder movement, improper movement results in irritation to the shoulder. One of the most common injuries we see is inflammation where the muscles attach to the bones of the shoulder (clavicle, humerus, and shoulder blade).

Initial treatment is designed to reduce inflammation through light, pain-free stretches at home. This is followed by specific strengthening exercises to reduce inflammation, produce proper movement, and strengthen the tendon. Other common treatments include acupuncture, physical therapy, and cold laser therapy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I see a doctor or chiropractor for shoulder pain?

Chiropractors are holistic healthcare practitioners that treat the joints, nerves, and muscles resulting in a complete, effective, and natural treatment for long-term shoulder pain relief.

Why is my shoulder pain not going away?

40% of shoulder pain episodes last over one year. This is commonly due to muscle compensation along with improper and incomplete treatment. Because most injuries are due to repetitive stress, it is important to not just relieve pain but to address the root cause of the pain, making lasting changes so that the condition will not return.

How should I sleep with shoulder pain?

The best way to sleep with shoulder pain is on your back with a pillow supporting your shoulder. Side and stomach sleeping cause unnecessary stress on the shoulder resulting in irritation and difficulty sleeping.

Can a chiropractor help with rotator cuff?

Yes! Chiropractors focus on the holistic treatment of muscles, nerves, and joints to ensure that proper movement returns to your shoulder.

How do I get rid of a pinched nerve in my shoulder?

Because the nerves that control the arm pass through the shoulder, it is a common site of entrapment or impingement of a nerve. To get rid of this, we find what muscles are pinching the nerve and utilize specific muscle techniques to relieve pressure and provide relief.