How to Fix Your Shoulder Pain by Leanna Taggio, PT
Does your shoulder hurt when you lift it above your head? Does is hurt when you sleep on that side? Does it make noises? If yes to any of these questions, then you may have what’s called Shoulder Impingement Syndrome.
The shoulder itself is an unstable joint that relies on muscles to hold it in good alignment. This makes it particularly susceptible to muscle imbalance and injury. Impingement occurs when shoulder alignment is lost and the rotator cuff muscles get pinched/irritated
Let’s review the anatomy of the shoulder:
The job of the rotator cuff muscles is to stabilize the shoulder joint by keeping the head of the humerus in the socket of the scapula, in order to maximize range of motion at the shoulder.
So let’s break down the motion of your shoulder when you lift your arm above your head. Generally, three things are required to fully lift the arm above head: (1) upward rotation of the scapula (shoulder blade)
(2) elevation of the humerus (upper arm bone)
(3) extension of the thoracic spine (mid-back) aka ‘good posture’
When all three of these things occur, there is plenty of space within the shoulder joint, and all of the rotator cuff tendons and shoulder bones are able to move through their full range of motion without a problem. However, when there is dysfunction present and the three things do not occur, this space is decreased and the muscles and bones must force the movement with bad alignment. The consequence is pinching of the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles due to this decrease in space. With repeated occurrence overtime, the result is pain and inflammation in the shoulder. Hence, it’s important to maintain good spinal posture and good muscle strength to keep your shoulder in optimal alignment.
Below are three photos to help illustrate this concept:
Shoulder Treatment :
Firstly, when you see a physiotherapist, they will conduct an assessment to determine whether they believe you have Shoulder Impingement Syndrome. Once diagnosed, the therapist will determine the phase of injury. If you’ve been experiencing shoulder pain for less than 3 months, we generally call that phase of injury ‘acute.’ If it’s been more than 3 months, we generally call that phase of injury ‘chronic.’ Treatment will differ depending on which phase of injury you are categorized in, but in general, these are the main goals of physiotherapy treatment:
· Decrease pain and swelling
· Release tightness and/or trigger points in the neck, shoulder, and spinal muscles
· Normalize your postural alignment
· Strengthen the rotator cuff muscles
· Restore correct patterning of the shoulder muscles
If you’ve been experiencing shoulder pain, let me work with you to achieve the above goals!
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