Monday 24th October, 2022

Is massage good for shoulder pain

Massaging shoulder
The relief you get depends heavily on the type of massage

Massage is good for shoulder pain, however the relief you get will vary considerably depending on the type of massage. In this article we will help you get the most appropriate massage, including effective self help options.

However, the relief from massage alone is often incomplete or temporary. This is because there are usually other issues as well, and according to a study published in the Journal of shoulder and elbow surgery (19) much medical advice and treatment you will receive is very poor, so to help you properly rid your shoulder pain we’ve included very important information on:

Which massages are the most effective

Quote about massage from journal
What the scientists say about massage (MT) for shoulder pain

What does not work

A review of the 12 available clinical trials of massage for shoulder pain found that general massages only gave short term relief and no improvement in function (1)⁠.

What does work

On the other hand specific massage techniques that target (myofascial) trigger points gave much better results (2–4). Trigger points are those tender lumps that therapists find. For more information please see our article Your Complete Guide To (Myofascial) Trigger Points .

Specific trigger point massage advice

There are many forms of professional trigger point therapy such as dry needling, laser and professional massage techniques. However, as discussed in our article Why do trigger points keep coming back , to eliminate trigger points you need to continue treatment for long after the pain goes. Most people do not do this with professional therapies so the pain eventually comes back. Because of this we recommend an effective self massage option. This will allow you to easily continue treatment long enough to get much more lasting benefits. To help you with this we have an article and video, both with illustrations and step by step instructions.


Massage and trigger point therapy for shoulder pain


The (avoidable) things that stop your shoulder getting better

In the next sections we will tell you about:

  1. the two main scientifically proven causes of shoulder pain your doctor probably will not get told about, and
  2. the the unproven treatments doctors recommend that do not work and may even hurt you.

To understand why this is even possible you need to understand that medical journals rely on drug company advertising, and huge amounts of drug company funds are directed at influencing doctors.

the two main scientifically proven causes of shoulder pain that commonly get overlooked

Extensive scientific evidence shows that the following are major causes of shoulder pain, and the correcting them is a big help. For more information please see our article Why shoulder pain keeps coming back and what you can do about it .

Head forward posture
Having a head forward posture is a major cause of shoulder pain, but this is largely omitted from medical journals

Overlooked cause one: a head forward posture

Many scientific trials have shown that having a head forward posture as pictured is a major cause of shoulder pain (5–11)⁠. This causes abnormal stress on the shoulder muscles and joint. Instead of being mentioned in medical journals doctors are trained to recognise the damage this causes (eg. impingement syndromes) and treat the symptoms.

Overlooked cause two: (myofascial) trigger points

We have mentioned that treating trigger points is very effective. In a series of trials, highly credentialed scientists have found that they are are a major cause of shoulder pain, and that treating them gives excellent relief (2–4,12–15). However, as discussed above this is usually not mentioned in medical journals (16–18)⁠ hence your doctor probably will not know about it.

the the unproven treatments doctors recommend that do not work and may even hurt you

Summary from journal article
This is what scientists say about the medical treatments for shoulder pain

According to an article in The Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery (19)⁠ 79% of shoulder pain suffers are still suffering after six months, and there is no evidence to support the use of most medically recommended treatments such as analgesics, NSAIDS (anti-inflammatory drugs), corticosteroids and physiotherapy.

As discussed in our article Do exercises help shoulder pain the common prescription of exercises deserves a particular dishonourable mention. In one trial of 148 patients a home exercise program actually made the shoulder pain worse (20)⁠.


DrGraeme massagers were originally built by Dr Graeme for use in his clinic, and to prescribe to his patients for additional self use at home. Now these are used by colleagues and other professionals for similar purposes. If you are a professional and wish to know more about this therapy, or possibly get a sample massager to trial please check out our practitioner page.


  1. Kong LJ, Zhan HS, Cheng YW, Yuan WA, Chen B, Fang M. Massage therapy for neck and shoulder pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Evidence-based Complement Altern Med. 2013;2013(Feb 28).
  2. Sergienko S, Kalichman L. Myofascial origin of shoulder pain: A literature review. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2015;19(1):91–101.
  3. Hains G, Descarreaux M, Hains F. Chronic Shoulder Pain of Myofascial Origin: A Randomized Clinical Trial Using Ischemic Compression Therapy. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2010;33(5):362–9.
  4. Bron C, De Gast A, Dommerholt J, Stegenga B, Wensing M, Oostendorp RAB. Treatment of myofascial trigger points in patients with chronic shoulder pain: A randomized, controlled trial. BMC Med. 2011;9.
  5. Jcu R, Sakthi D. Clinical assessment of subacromial impingement-which factors differ from asymptomatic population. Musculoskeltal Sci Pract. 2017;27:49–56.
  6. Alizadehkhaiyat O, Roebuck MM, Makki AT, Frostick SP. Postural alterations in patients with subacromial impingement syndrome. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2017;12(7):1111–20.
  7. Skolimowskil J, Barczyk K, Dudek K, Skolimowska B, Demczuk-Włodarczyk E, Anwajler J. Posture in people with shoulder impingement syndrome. Ortop Traumatol Rehabil. 2007;9(5):484–48498.
  8. Otoshi K, Takegami M, Sekiguchi M, Onishi Y, Yamazaki S, Otani K, et al. Association between kyphosis and subacromial impingement syndrome: LOHAS study. J Shoulder Elb Surg. 2014;23(12):e300–7.
  9. Hunter DJ, Rivett DA, McKeirnan S, Smith L, Snodgrass SJ. Relationship between Shoulder Impingement Syndrome and Thoracic Posture. Phys Ther. 2020;100(4):677–86.
  10. Lewis JS, Wright C, Green A. Subacromial impingement syndrome: The effect of changing posture on shoulder range of movement. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2005;35(2):72–87.
  11. Land H. Clinical assessment of subacromial shoulder impingement – which factors differ from the asymptomatic population? Musculoskeltal Sci Pract. 2017;70:429–40.
  12. Gordon CM, Andrasik F, Schleip R, Birbaumer N, Rea M. Myofascial triggerpoint release (MTR) for treating chronic shoulder pain: A novel approach . J Bodyw Mov Ther . 2016;20(3):614–22.
  13. Hidalgo-Lozano A, Fernández-De-Las-Peñas C, Alonso-Blanco C, Ge HY, Arendt-Nielsen L, Arroyo-Morales M. Muscle trigger points and pressure pain hyperalgesia in the shoulder muscles in patients with unilateral shoulder impingement: A blinded, controlled study. Exp Brain Res. 2010;
  14. Van Den Dolder PA, Roberts DL. A trial into the effectiveness of soft tissue massage in the treatment of shoulder pain. Aust J Physiother . 2003;49(3):183–8.
  15. Perez-Palomares S, Oliván-Blázquez B, Arnal-Burró AM, Mayoral-Del Moral O, Gaspar-Calvo E, De-La-Torre-Beldarraín ML, et al. Contributions of myofascial pain in diagnosis and treatment of shoulder pain. A randomized control trial. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2009;10(1):1–7.
  16. Burbank KM, Stevenson JH, Czarnecki GR, Dorfman J. Chronic shoulder pain: Part I. Evaluation and diagnosis. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77(4):453–60.
  17. Burbank KM, Stevenson JH, Czarneck GR, Dorfman J. Chronic shoulder pain: Part II. Treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77(4):493–7.
  18. Holmes RE, Barfield WR, Woolf SK. Clinical evaluation of nonarthritic shoulder pain: Diagnosis and treatment. Phys Sportsmed. 2015;43(3):262–8.
  19. Cloke DJ, Watson H, Purdy S, Steen IN, Williams JR. A pilot randomized, controlled trial of treatment for painful arc of the shoulder. J Shoulder Elb Surg. 2008;17(1 SUPPL.).
  20. Gleyze P, Georges T, Flurin PH, Laprelle E, Katz D, Clavert P, et al. Comparison and critical evaluation of rehabilitation and home-based exercises for treating shoulder stiffness: Prospective, multicenter study with 148 cases. Orthop Traumatol Surg Res. 2011;97(8 SUPPL.).

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Dr Graeme

About Dr Graeme

Several years ago Dr Graeme, a Chiropractor practicing in Victoria, Australia was looking for a serious hand held massager his patients could use at home to get the extra quality massage they needed. The ones he found in the shops and on-line for home use looked nice but were not serious, and... read more

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