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How Massage Can Help Shoulder Pain

licensed massage therapist working on a shoulder

By: Jenny Cheek, LMT

As a veteran massage therapist who has spent more than half my career in Charleston, South Carolina, I have been inundated with clients who specifically see me for shoulder issues. Whether it is a postural issue from sleep and life habits, rotator cuff injury from tennis, pickleball, football, or high school sports/dance/gymnastics, frozen shoulder, rehabilitation from rotator cuff surgery, or revisiting an old injury/surgery, I am quite adept at treating this region of the body. I find people who come to me for massage work typically have limited range of motion, chronic pain, referring sensations down the shoulder, sometimes even to down the arm and to the hand. Typically, people either have a history of addressing and staying ahead of their symptoms, or they have done minimal to nothing and live with a lesser quality of life. Often, people are not aware that there are options available to them that include a holistic approach, rather than a medicated approach. My honest opinion in treating a region of the body post injury/surgery, is a more holistic approach where appropriate. Ideally, I feel that people have a better quality of life when treating the injury/surgery site with a comprehensive approach that may include some or all of the following: physical therapy, massage therapy, dry needling, and acupuncture.

Commonly, people who experience shoulder discomfort or chronic pain will typically feel it on the posterior side of the body. Specifically, near or around the scapula, with referral to the neck, or lateral shoulder. In a massage session, I not only address where you physically feel the pain or sensations, but all of the related muscles that have compensated for this trauma to the region. People are surprised to learn that addressing the anterior neck muscles, pectoral muscles, deltoid, and even triceps are essential in your recovery! I have helped countless athletes and every day people live a better quality of life, experience improved range of motion and mobility by addressing the shoulder girdle as a whole, and not just the posterior side.

For those who are curious about how often and how long massage treatment should last, I have excellent advice for how to approach any region of the body that is affecting your quality of life. Garnered from nearly 17 years in my field observing clients who take their treatment and quality of life seriously, I recommend massage therapy at least once every 2 weeks (once a week if a viable option) until you are significantly improved on a consistent basis. From there, sessions can be spread out to about once a month or until a new length of time between sessions establishes maintenance of your “new normal.” Massage therapy is an excellent modality, especially when paired with other holistic approaches to assist you in achieving your desired outcome and better quality of life.


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