Shoulder pain is a common physical occurrence. Your shoulder is a complex, highly mobile structure made up of several components. When considering the shoulder you need to think about the collarbone connecting to your chest, the collarbone connecting to the shoulderblade or scapula, and finally the arm bone joining to the scapula. Strong tendons, ligaments and muscles support your shoulder and make it stable.
In younger people, pain is more likely to be due to an accident or injury. However as you age natural changes occur to your shoulder joint and the rotator cuff tendon, similar to seeing wrinkles and grey hairs in the mirror. We also see pain more strongly associated with how one is using – or perhaps not using – their shoulder. Here are five easy tips to help manage shoulder pain and keep your joint strong.
#1 Shoulder pain diagnosis
There are many causes of shoulder pain and not all of them are due to problems of the shoulder joints or associated structures. Accurate diagnosis is important. “Common pathology is frozen shoulder, impingent, tendinopathy and referral from the scapular or neck,” physiotherapist and Healthfix founder Sean Cooney. “To treat your pain effectively, it’s crucial to know what to treat.”
#2 Using full range
When experiencing shoulder pain, the protective muscles around the joint try to keep your arm by your side in an effort to restrict movement. Activating the muscles that move the shoulder through its full range (these are called the antagonist muscles) can significantly reduce your recovery time.
#3 Comfortable and progressive loading
Everyone’s progress is different. Make sure you don’t push yourself or your shoulder beyond what feels comfortable. That said, strength is built with progressive loading – that is, a little more weight and/or repetitions as is safe for your particular issue. “Monitor your pain one to two hours after exercise or the next morning to know if you’re loading correctly,” advises Sean.
#4 Don’t go too far
Pain management is the first step to regaining strength in any part of the body. Sean recommends to first get comfortable with using your arms below shoulder height, gradually moving up to shoulder height before – no points for guessing – graduating to using your arms above your head. “This is a safe way to ensure you’re not going too far when regaining your full range of motion,” says Sean.
#5 Stretch. And stretch again.
“Stretching can serve as a great tester and reliever of pain, not to mention the best way to improve flexibility in the shoulder. A daily doorway stretch can help mitigate shoulder pain or find out if you’re lacking some essential range of motion. To do this, find yourself a clear doorway, stretch the arm overhead to grasp the door frame, then lean forward to create resistance.
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