Physical Therapy and Shoulder Pain

hoob1jpg-5dd85fd15bea6e75 - CopyYou feel it every time you reach over your head or try to throw a ball with your kid; the dreaded shoulder pain. Turns out, shoulder pain is one of the most common reasons people visit an orthopedic surgeon (with “impingement syndrome” being the most common diagnosis). Not only is it painful, but chronic shoulder pain can hinder your ability to work, exercise, and take part in a plethora of leisure activities.

Without knowing where to turn, lots of us are quick to jump to pain medication or surgery for relief, but few realize that exercise and physical therapy can make a huge impact, and it can actually fix the problem in the long-term. We asked Portland area Physical Therapist, Colin Hoobler to weigh in on the benefits of physical therapy when treating shoulder pain, and here’s what he had to say.

“Research tells us that physical therapist-led exercise therapy is as effective as surgery in the long-term, decreasing pain and boosting function after three to eight weeks (J Rehab Med 2009). When combined with manual therapy, exercise therapy can reduce pain faster than surgery, boosting your quality of life (BMJ 2010).

Key exercise therapy components include:

  1. Strengthening your rotator cuff and upper middle back. Your rotator cuff muscles (there are four) keep your upper arm bone safely within your shoulder socket during arm motion, preventing pinching of sensitive tissues. Upper middle back muscles help maintain posture, which also helps minimize shoulder impingement risk. The incline dumbbell row is a great exercise you can do with minimal equipment to strengthen the upper back and neck.
  2. Lengthening your shoulder and chest muscles. A tight shoulder is a painful shoulder, so stretching daily can help improve flexibility so forces are more evenly distributed.
  3. Manual therapy. A physical therapist skilled in manual therapy can work wonders before you do your exercises to reduce pain and tightness.

Despite compelling research, many people with shoulder pain do not receive effective exercise guidance to reduce pain and fix the underlying problem (Eur J Phys Rehab Med 2013). As a result, they continue to have chronic shoulder pain after relying on medication and/or surgery due to faulty intrinsic shoulder mechanics.

Learning how to safely and effectively treat your own shoulder conservatively probably will take several weeks, but the long-term benefits are well worth the effort.”

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Learn more from Colin at his clinic: “Overcoming Shoulder Pain: a New Approach” on October 19th

If you live in the greater Portland area, and you’d like to learn more about physical therapy from Colin, he’s hosting a workshop at his Beaverton Clinic on October 19th. All proceeds from the event will benefit Bonnie Slope Elementary School, and you’ll learn how to effectively use exercise to treat your nagging shoulder pain. To learn more, visit

Preventing and Treating Knee Pain

Is knee pain a problem for you? If so, join us for a workshop with physical therapist Colin Hoobler on how to treat and prevent knee pain, January 26th on the PSU campus.Father daughter family

Colin will show you simple, effective stretches you can do, regardless of age or ability, to make knee pain a thing of the past.

Reigster now and join us there. (The $5 registration fee goes entirely to charity.)

Click here for more details.

Free Weights vs. Weight Machines: What Should I Use?

Have you ever gone to a gym and had no idea where to start? You aren’t alone. Unless you’ve worked with a personal trainer or physical therapist, it’s difficult to nail down when to use one set of equipment vs. another.

To help settle a big source of fitness confusion, we asked licensed physical therapist, Colin Hoobler, to tell us the advantages (and disadvantages) of free weights and weight machines. Hopefully this will give you some guidance before you start a strength training program.

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Weight Machine Advantages: 

1) Safety: Weight machine levers move in a single plane, so there’s little risk of losing control and getting injured (unless the machine is improperly adjusted).

2) Convenience: Less physical and mental skill are needed to perform machine-based resistive exercise. Thus, less professional instruction and time to learn are needed.

3) Less cardiac demand: For those engaged in cardiac rehabilitation, machines may initially offer a safer alternative to free weights due to less demand on the heart (American Journal of Cardiology 2004).

Free Weights_blogFree Weight Advantages:

1) Versatility: Using free weights allows you to perform more exercises with far less equipment when compared with weight machines. For example, an adjustable bench and dumbbells allow you to complete more than 160 exercises, while the leg extension machine allows you to do one.

2) Cost: Free weights cost far less than machines, so it may be more feasible to have them as part of a home program. The major disadvantage of weight machines is poor transferability to your home program, because most people don’t have machines at home. Consequently, you must go to your health club to perform your program, making consistency more challenging.

3) Caloric expenditure: Research shows free weights may burn more calories per unit of time compared to weight machines, probably because of having to control resistance in three planes (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2002). Consequently, using free weights may help expedite fat loss using fewer exercises when compared with weight machines.

4) Skill requirement: Some may see this as a disadvantage, but with greater effort needed (both physically and mentally), benefit may be greater.However, this can also be a  major disadvantage of free weights. Since there’s a greater risk of injury you’ll need to be coached on how to safely perform exercises. Enlisting professional guidance from a competent physical therapist or trainer may be appropriate.

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If you live in the Portland area,  Colin Hoobler is hosting a physical therapy workshop called, “Overcoming Knee Pain.”

When: Jan. 26, from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Where: Portland State’s Stott Center.

Cost: $5, and all proceeds to to charity

Register: click here to learn more and register online.