9 Stretches and Exercises for Relief from Shoulder Pain
Shoulder pain is a common condition, especially the older you get. It is estimated that 9% of the population will suffer shoulder pain at some, where approximately 25% of adults over the age of 50 experience shoulder pain.
There are many factors that contribute to shoulder pain that may include:
- Injury – over use, sprain/strain, ligament tears, fractures and other injuries can occur at the shoulder and surrounding structures, or rotator cuff muscle tears
- Bursitis – Bursitis is a flat, fluid filled sac that when damaged can become inflamed
- Arthritis – inflammation that affects the joints of the body that may be caused by age, “wear and tear”, or a chronic autoimmune disorder called rheumatoid arthritis
- Shoulder Impingement – a condition that can be caused by over use, arthritis, or poor posture that can lead to degeneration of the joint or over growth of the bone around the joint that may restrict movement and cause pain during movement
- Neck issues – certain conditions off the neck such as, disc problems that may or may not involve the nerve root, misalignment of the vertebrae, poor posture, or muscle spasm can affect the nerves that feed the arm or hand
Because the shoulder needs movement to remain healthy, when shoulder pain occurs, the first response to pain is guard or restrict painful movement.
Unfortunately, without movement, the shoulder can begin to develop a condition called adhesive capsulitis a.k.a., frozen shoulder, which effects approximately 4% of the population and typically people between the ages of 40 – 50 years old.
2 Steps to Relief
Persistent or chronic shoulder pain should always be evaluated by a doctor, especially in shoulder pain that is sharp, burning, has pain that radiates or travels down the arm, or restricts movement. However, some shoulder pain can be relieved by performing simple stretches and exercises that can help free up or strengthen the muscles that support the shoulder.
Stretch it Out!
Stretching is an excellent way of lengthening muscles that have become too short or too strong that may off balance other muscles that perform opposite actions.
- Upper Trapezius is a portion of the Trapezius that helps the head look up and bend to the side. To stretch this muscle, sit up straight at tall and bring the ear to the shoulder. Place the arm of the other side behind the back to further open up the neck. Hold for 30 seconds on the right and left side.
- Levator Scapulae is a muscle on the back of the neck that attaches to the top of the shoulder blade. The fibers of these muscles have a slight twist as it enters the neck. This muscle helps assist the head in rotation or looking over your shoulder. Levator Scapulae can be stretched by sitting up straight and tall. Look down then turn the head toward the armpit. Place the opposite arm behind the back to further open up the neck. Hold for 30 seconds on the right and left side.
- Pectoralis Major & Minor are two muscles in the chest that can become too short or ‘tight’ which can compress certain nerves coming from the neck that pass through the shoulder. Not only can these muscles contribute to shoulder pain but may also contribute to sensations of tingling or numbness in the hands and fingers. In order to stretch both muscles, the elbow will be put in two different positions. Begin using a doorway and bring the elbow to shoulder height. Keep the shoulders even, torso upright, and step forward into the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Next, bring the elbow to ear height, keeping the shoulders even and torso upright. Hold for 30 seconds for each position on the right and left side.
- Latissimus Dorsi or “Lat” is a large, broad muscle that attaches to the connective tissue in the low back. This muscle is so broad and large that it covers the entire lower back, and lower portions of the mid back, twisting into a single band of muscle that attaches to the shoulder. This muscle is important for bringing the arm toward the body and turning the arm in toward the body. When this muscle is too tight, it can lead to poor posture and shoulder movement.
To stretch the Lats, get into a child’s pose by sitting on your heels and bending forward. Reach out and bend to the side. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.
Tighten it Up!
Exercise or strengthening of muscles that support the shoulder joint is very important, particularly with increasing use of computers and technology. As we continue to reach forward, look down, and create poor posture habits, this weakens the muscles that support the posture.
A poor posture means that the head is not properly sitting over the shoulders, which causes the shoulders to sit improperly in the joint. Improper joint movement can lead to potential injury or excessive “wear & tear”.
- I.Y.T – This exercise is designed to help strengthen the muscle groups of the shoulders and midback that help support posture. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
- (“I”) Lying face down on a mat or over a stability ball, relax the neck or tuck in the chin. Set the shoulder blades back and down. Extend the arms overhead, with the thumbs up toward the celling. Begin repetitions by lifting the arms upward.
- (“Y”) Lying face down on a mat or over a stability ball, relax the neck or tuck in the chin. Set the shoulder blades back and down. Extend the arms apart overhead making a “Y” with the thumbs toward the ceiling. Begin repetitions by lifting the arms upward.
- (“T”) Lying face down on a mat or over a stability ball, relax the neck or tuck in the chin. Set the shoulder blades back and down. Extent the arms directly out to the side making a “T” with the thumbs toward the ceiling. Begin repetitions by lifting the arms upward.
- High Rows - This exercise is designed to help strengthen the muscle groups of the shoulders that help support shoulder stability. Using a cable or an exercise band, raise the arms at shoulder height. Bring the shoulder blades back and down, lift the chest up. Drive the elbows back toward the midline.
- Low Rows - This exercise is designed to help strengthen the muscle groups of the shoulders that help support shoulder stability. Using a cable or an exercise band, raise the arms at waist height. Bring the shoulder blades back and down, lift the chest up. Drive the elbows back toward the midline, keeping the elbows close to the body.
- Quadruped Serratus Punch – The serratus muscle is attached to the front or ‘under side’ of the shoulder blade between the rib cage and is responsible for stability in the shoulder blade during movement. Begin in a quadruped position or "hands and Knees". Using only movement from the shoulder, perform a pushing movement. The elbows should remain strait and not bent.
- Forward Plank – Planks are an excellent exercise, not only for the shoulders, but the core as well. Begin this exercise as if to begin a push-up. Rest the forearms on the floor or mat and extend. Contract the abdominals and do not allow the hips to dip. Hold up to 30 seconds, 3 times.
We Can Help!
Remember, pain is the body’s way of telling you something wrong. Just like an engine of a car – if the check engine light stays on too long, you could be facing a long and expensive repair. Listen to your body and if you’re currently experiencing persistent pain that doesn’t go away, Forever Well Chiropractic is ready to help!
Dr. Haywood is experienced with many conditions from the head to the toes, including dietary and nutritional support needed for the body to heal faster. Come in for a brief consultation and see how we can help you today.