When it comes to experiencing shoulder pain, you are not alone. Anyone can experience shoulder pain and it doesn’t necessarily have to be age or trauma-related. You may have been in the garden, playing a sport or even just doing some cleaning, when you feel pain in your shoulder.
Our shoulder is a complex ball and socket joint, made up of the humeral head and the glenoid cavity. We also have numerous larger muscles surrounding this joint that help provide us with movement. Four of these muscles are referred to as the Rotator Cuff muscles (Subscapularis, Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor).
These are the muscles that support the joint and they are integral to the smooth function and movement of the shoulder.
Our Rotator Cuff muscles, and their tendons, are responsible for stabilising our shoulder joint. These muscles ensure that all the biomechanics within the joint are aligned correctly so that we can have full movement. Weakness of the Rotator Cuffs means the ball isn’t in the centre of the socket. If these muscles are too weak, it can lead to a change in the movement and position of the joint which can then result in shoulder pain. This means the joint moves around too much which can cause pain, wear and tear or impingement to the shoulder joint’s soft tissues.
The most common indication of an issue with the Rotator Cuff muscle is pain. You can have pain when your arm is just hanging by your side. This can be in the front, back or even radiating down the side of your arm. You’ll probably also experience pain when moving your arm. You will probably have trouble with lifting, pushing, movements where your arms are over your head and/or when your hands are behind your back.
When starting to manage your pain, it is important to start with ensuring you have your full range of movement. You can use a stick to do this or a pully system. Once your pain is reducing and your range is improving, it is important to start strengthening the muscles.
Here are some simple strengthening exercises that you can do at home to get you started:
Squeezing shoulder blades/ Retraction
- Sit up straight on a chair or stand upright.
- Use a small movement to bring your shoulder blades back and down squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Hold this position before relaxing your shoulders again.
- Do not move your back during this exercise.
External rotation (Add a weight when comfortable)
- Stand in an upright position or sit in a chair
- Bend the elbow of your symptomatic arm to a right angle.
- Keep your shoulder blades back and down and rotate your arm outwards, keeping your elbow by your side and your shoulder blades in a good position.
- Control the movement back to the start position and then repeat.
- Stand facing a wall, around one large stride away.
- Place your hands on the wall around the same height as your shoulders but slightly wider.
- Lean against the wall, while keeping a straight line from your head to your feet.
- Bend your elbows, bringing your chest and hips in towards the wall and push your elbows outwards.
- Make sure your body stays straight.
- Push through your hands to straighten your arms back out again.
- Continue this movement.
It is important that you work in a pain-free range to prevent aggravating the joint and causing any pain.
Written by Carla van der Hoeven
Move Better for Life Tamworth
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