An osteopath’s journey to shoulder health

Shoulder injury rehabilitation

A clinician’s personal journey from shoulder injury to rehab

Through personal as well as professional experience I have come to understand the physical and emotional aspects of shoulder injury and the recovery process much more thoroughly.

My own shoulder injury took me on a journey from fear, powerlessness and pain through to the process of rehabilitation. I recovered with a stronger shoulder which is safer from re-injury.

I like to think this helps me understand some of what my patients are going through too.

About the shoulder joint

The shoulder is a complex joint. Often oversimplified as a ‘ball and socket’ joint, it is actually more like a ball and tripod, with the tripod being the scapula. This is a highly mobile bone which slides around the rib cage, which in turn moves with the spine. All the parts are wrapped in muscle and fascia with specific functions. The cooperation between arm, shoulder, ribs, spine and all their associated muscles gives the shoulder a huge range of motion, power and control from lifting 500kg weights, to imitating a dying swan, to painting the Mona Lisa or doing a one-handed handstand.

Pain, injury and even emotional trauma alter how you hold and use your shoulders, and can lead to a breakdown in this cooperation. Rotator cuff tears, dislocation, labral tears, frozen shoulder, and my own favourite – impingement syndrome – are intrinsically linked to this breakdown in cooperation and shoulder function.

Poor shoulder position and function leads to shoulder injury, and injury almost always results in poor shoulder function.

Rehabilitation process

As osteopaths and physiotherapists, when we rehabilitate your shoulder, we address injury, position and function in four stages, with our overall aim being to optimise healthy cooperation between these areas of the body to restore your shoulder function and leave it in (hopefully) better condition than before the injury.

Initially we might use hands-on treatment with gentle movement and muscle relaxation techniques to reduce inflammation, pain and apprehension after your injury.

We then prescribe gentle exercises to increase your pain-free range of movement that you can perform at home to support your recovery.

The third ‘stabilisation’ stage places strong emphasis on exercise: slow, controlled but challenging movements which help develop strength and coordination of the spine / shoulder /arm complex.

Finally in the dynamic power stage we build on this foundation of pain-free, controlled movement, to increase your power and strength by prescribing more complex movements allowing you to safely and confidently control your shoulder in strong dynamic movements.

Shoulder injuries are common and can be debilitating. I know only too well how dis-empowering it can be having a ‘bad shoulder’ get in the way of exercise, sleep and life in general but it’s important not to lose hope!

The beauty of shoulder rehabilitation means you really don’t have to put up with a bad shoulder – at Kennington Osteopaths and Physiotherapy we aim to give you the advice and support to help you through recovery.


If you’re not sure whether we can help, please give us a call on 020 7735 6813 or email