Keeping your shoulders in tip top shape

Keeping your shoulders in tip top shape.jpg

The most flexible joints in our body are our shoulders.  Their incredible flexibility also makes them the most commonly injured joints as almost every one of us will experience some kind of shoulder issue during our lifetime.  This is because of the uniqueness and complexity of the shoulder that on the one hand, makes it the joint with the greatest range of motion, but on the other, the joint with the least stability.

Understanding our shoulders

The shoulders are made up of four different joints. These joints connect the upper arm, shoulder blade, and the collarbone.  To allow the bones to swing, swivel, and twist, there is a network of at least 17 muscles, along with tendons, and ligaments working together making those motions happen.

When our shoulders are working well and in shape, they allow us to do our daily activities with ease – hanging a picture on the wall, lifting a heavy box, swinging a golf club, or placing something on a high shelf.

What causes shoulder issues?

There can be a variety of reasons for shoulder problems. The most common cause of shoulder pain is rotator cuff tears.  The rotator cuff provides stability for the shoulder and is made up of four small muscles and tendons.  If a tear occurs, it weakens the shoulder making it difficult or painful to lift your arm overhead even doing routine things like getting dressed or brushing your hair.

Others commons causes of shoulder problems can include osteoarthritis, tendinitis, impingement, shoulder instability or a fracture.

People who sit at a desk job all day or if a person is leaning over for long periods of time such as when reading, this can put the shoulder in an awkward position.  Over time, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments get out of shape and unbalance the force in the shoulder making us vulnerable to an injury if we push, pull, lift, or carry something. 

Signs of a shoulder that has lost strength can be when a person feels pain in the back of the shoulder blade and along the sides of the shoulder.  Often times it can be an activity with your arms raised above your head that really makes you notice there is a problem.

Preventing shoulder injuries

Like any joint or muscle in the body, our shoulders need a regular workout preventing them from stiffness, soreness, or injury from inactivity. To keep our shoulders in good working condition, here are some stretches to try out:

·         Cross-body stretch – Gently pull each arm across your chest.  Hold for 10 seconds.

·         Lateral walk-ups – Stand next to a door or wall and use your fingers to slowly walk your arm upward.

·         Shoulder blade squeezes – While sitting or standing, push your chest our and squeeze your shoulder blades together.  Hold for 10 seconds.

Do these stretches every day along with shoulder-strengthening exercises to minimize the possibility of a shoulder injury.

Anyone with existing shoulder pain or disability should talk to their doctor or their physical therapist before trying out these moves making sure they are appropriate for you.

If you have had shoulder pain lasting more than four to six weeks, if the pain gets worse at night, or it prevents you from doing normal daily activities using your shoulders, make an appointment with a doctor to have the issue checked out.  The sooner you address a possible injury to the shoulder, the better in order to prevent further damage.