By Dr. Mark Bodnar Bsc, DC, FCCRS(c)

Shoulder complaints are not just for atheletes. Shoulder pain is so common that on average, 3 out of 10 people will have had shoulder pain in the last month. Why is shoulder pain so common? To put it simply, we ask a lot from the shoulder joint.

The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the body, with motion and rotation in all directions.  At the same time the shoulder needs to manage a lot of strength with muscles powerful enought to lift your whole body. The shoulder's great mobility comes with a cost, a reduction in stability. Rather than the classic stable “ball and socket” joint, the shoulder is more like a “ball and saucer”, dependant on specialized muscles to keep it in place. Shoulder problems arise when the complex interaction of the stabilizing rotator cuff muscles gets disrupted from excess strain, over use, or too much overhead activity. Initially injuries can lead to swelling and pain around the shoulder, reducing mobility. Over time, repeated injuries frequently result in progressive tears of the tendons.

So how do you avoid shoulder problems? Obviously the best solution is to avoid the injuries in the first place. Limit overhead activities, being especially careful with weight, exercices like the military press (pushing a bar overhead) put the shoulder in a difficult position.

If it's too late to avoid the problem, stretching tight muscles can help resolve shoulder injuries. Remember, for any stretch move only until you feel a gentle stretching sensation then hold that position for 10 seconds and repeat the stretch 3 times. Stretching too aggressively can lead to more injuries so be careful. The shoulder moves in several different directions so it's important to stretch all areas.  

Strengthening the stabilizing rotator cuff muscles is essential to recovering from any shoulder injury.  An easy home exercise is isometric resistance, which is as simple as pushing or pulling against resistance without any movement. Try the following exercise, keeping the resistance very light and focusing on maintaining good posture and positioning. Tuck your elbow tight to your hip with the elbow bent. Reach your opposite hand across and gently try to push (or pull) your wrist and hand to the right or left, resisting the movement with the affected shoulder. You can gradually add different angles to strengthen the whole muscle.

If you are not responding to exercises or stretching, treatment can help clear up some of the underlying irritation. Graston augmented soft tissue mobilization is one effective option to help clear away poorly formed scar tissue or chronic irritation. The specialized stainless steel instruments help to break down adhesions and scar tissue, restoring normal motion to the sholder joint.

If you have any questions regarding this article, associated reference material or any other problems please feel free to contact Dr. Bodnar at the Bedford Chiropractic Clinic.  

Bedford Chiropractic, based in Bedford, Nova Scotia, offers full-service consultations, diagnosis and treatment plans for a variety of workplace, repetitive and other injuries. We treat pain to the head, neck, jaw, arm, shoulders, upper body, chest, lower back, legs and feet.  Contact us today 902 835-6865. We serve patients in the Halifax Regional Municipality, including Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, Sackville and surrounding areas.