31 May A shoulder to cry on or a shoulder that cries? Understanding and overcoming shoulder pain
While the proverbial pain in the neck gets plenty of publicity, our experience here is that pain in the shoulder is just as hard to bear. When you’ve hurt your shoulder, so many of life’s daily activities become painful: getting dressed, picking up bags or children, gardening, driving, even lying in bed!
The shoulder is a joint which is made up of the collarbone (clavicle), the shoulder blade (scapula) and the arm bone (humerus). Held together by muscles, ligaments and tendons, the shoulder must be both mobile enough to undertake a large range of movements while also being stable enough to enable you to pull, push and lift. And here’s the rub: because achieving a balance between movement and stability is a delicate business, the shoulder experiences a high incidence of problems.
The majority of shoulder injuries arise from damage to the soft tissue surrounding the joint. Many individuals experience problems with tears and inflammation of the rotator cuff, caused by ageing, trauma, sporting injury or repeated use. Pain surrounding the shoulder blade is often linked to long periods of sitting at a computer, where poor posture puts additional strain on the shoulder and scapular muscles. Other issues include dislocation and separation, ‘frozen shoulder’ and complications arising from arthritis. Tendonitis and inflammation of the bursa – the sac of fluid which protects the shoulder joint – are also responsible for the debilitating pain and loss of movement associated with shoulder injury.
If you are one of the many individuals who suffer from shoulder problems, here are four vital steps to help restore your shoulder to health:
1. Avoid aggravating the problem. If there are activities that make your shoulder hurt, like working at the computer, lifting weights at the gym or raising your arms, then try to minimise these actions as much as possible.
2. Take action against inflammation. In addition to resting the region, it may help to regularly ice the affected shoulder for 20 minutes at a time. Anti-inflammatory medication may also assist as a short-term option for reducing the swelling.
3. Work on flexibility and strength. If you have reduced flexibility in your shoulder area, your shoulder capsule is placed under extra pressure. Consult your physiotherapist about ways in which you can increase flexibility and strength in your shoulder. It’s important that you balance any resistance training with a thorough stretching routine, focusing in particular on your chest, neck and muscles in your upper back.
4. Care for your shoulders. There are lots of ways you can reduce the load your shoulders bear on a daily basis. Try to carry only the bare essentials in your backpack or hand-bag, and practice good posture when you sit at the computer, using a lower-back support if necessary. Consider whether the pillow you use offers enough support to your neck and shoulder region, and avoid long drives where possible, as extensive periods with arms outstretched on the steering wheel can be a source of strain.
Shoulder pain can take a long time to heal but the good news is you are not alone. We are serious about sharing the load, and our team of physiotherapist are qualified to diagnose and develop a personalised recovery plan for your specific shoulder injury. Call us today on 9790 4233 book an appointment.