Case study – physiotherapy treatment for shoulder and arm pain

Steve visited Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic with a chronic shoulder/arm complaint that was impacting his ability to work, preventing him from exercising, and even stopping him from chopping vegetables. Here he explains his symptoms and talks about his experience being treated at Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic.

Tell us about yourself

I’m a 39-year-old with a desk job in Newcastle – I spend at least seven hours a day at a desk, most days of the week. I run occasionally, and go the gym at lunchtimes when I can, but I’ve had to curtail that recently since the shoulder pain started. I’ve had a history of left-sided shoulder problems, but this is the first time my right side has been affected.

What were your symptoms?

I started to notice pain whilst using my computer mouse at work. My job role had changed slightly and more mouse work was required. Within a couple of weeks, I was experiencing a sharp, shooting pain across the front of my shoulder, and down my forearm. Soon, I realised I’d lost all strength in my arm – mobility was limited to below-the-shoulder and I couldn’t even lift very light weights at the gym.

What impact was the pain having on your life?

Aside from the gym, I was struggling to use my mouse with my right arm. I started using it left-handed, but that slowed me down. I also couldn’t chop firm vegetables such as potatoes – it was really painful! It also started to affect my sleep, and I’d wake in the middle of the night with a dull ache, unable to get back to sleep again. It also ached after driving for long periods.

How did you hear about Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic, and why did you choose us?

I’d been a patient at Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic before, for ‘pre-hab’ for my right shoulder before I had surgery on it in 2016. I knew about how they worked at the clinic, and knew I would be in good hands. I am fortunate to have private health insurance via my employer, and after visiting my GP for an initial diagnosis, I was able to be referred to Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic for treatment.

How did your treatments go?

I described my symptoms to my physiotherapist, Ben, who asked a lot of questions about the way I used my arm, as well as the circumstances in which I felt pain. He was able to pinpoint the causes of the pain, and suggested it was a problem with the median nerve, which runs from the neck, down the arm to the hand.

He identified that there was no problem with actual shoulder joint, because it could be moved without pain if he lifted it: the problem was that my muscles simply couldn’t do the work themselves.

He spent time manipulating and massaging the affected areas, with particular attention on my neck and shoulders. It was interesting that, although the pain was manifesting itself in my arm, it was being caused by problems elsewhere.

What exercises were you given? How did they go?

At first I was given very gentle exercises – some of which involved very slight movements that I wouldn’t have imagined would help, but they really did. Each week, the prescribed exercises developed and became more challenging, aimed at strengthening my shoulders and back – particularly the muscles at the bottom of my shoulder blade.

It’s important to understand that rehabilitation requires lots of work and that you need to put time and effort in to do the exercises in your own time. For me, it was useful to find out specifically what exercises would improve my condition and enable me to start using my arm again in comfort.

Did you notice improvements?

I attended four sessions and felt progressively better after each one. The important aspect for me is that I know now what exercises to do – and I am continuing to do them – to build up the available range of movement in my arm. I am hoping to return to the gym again soon and feel confident that I’ll be able to do so.

Would you recommend Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic?

Yes, certainly. I’m the type of person who tends to try self-remedy first – so I had tried resting it, applying ice, applying heat, stretches (but the wrong kind); I had even tried exercising through the pain to see if that would help.

The fastest, most effective course of action would have been to seek professional advice straight away instead of waiting three months and hoping it got better!


Contact Newcastle Sports Injury Clinic here or call on 0191 233 0500, to speak to a specialist or book an appointment.