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Trouble reaching into a cabinet to put away groceries?

By: Cierra Washington ATC

“My shoulder is killing me! I can’t even get my arm up to wash my hair!” Shoulder pain is one of the most common complaints we hear in the physical therapy world from patients. Whether the pain is sharp and stabbing, or full and achy, it causes the person a significant amount of discomfort and inability to perform their everyday activities. So what causes shoulder pain in the first place?

The shoulder joint, also known as the glenohumeral joint, is the most mobile joint in the body, which unfortunately makes it the most prone to injury. The surrounding musculature provides the joint with stability as the humeral head moves freely in the shoulder socket. Along with the humeral head and the socket, there are three additional bones: the scapula, which is attached to the socket, the clavicle and the acromion. In most cases, the shoulder’s anatomy isn’t the problem. However, there are occurrences when the acromion is misshaped and thus causes additional stress and “pinching” on its underlying tissues.

Many shoulder injuries occur due to the following:

  • Repetitive movements or overuse
  • Improper sleeping positions
  • Improper mechanics
  • Muscles imbalances
  • Poor posture
  • Arthritis
  • Falls

Repetitive movements can be anything from only using your dominant arm to reach into the cabinet, only using that same arm to move your computer mouse, to pitching a baseball game. When a movement is repeated multiple times, it’s more likely for the muscle to become strained as it is being overworked and eventually “quits” causing pain. If you sleep like me, you are bound to end up in a position that compromises your shoulder. My sleeping position involves my arm going under the pillow or above my head. These both can lead to impingement of the anterior shoulder joint.

Injuries due to improper mechanics happen because frankly, someone is either being lazy or completely unaware of how their body moves. For instance, imagine coming home and there is a huge box sitting in front of your door. Without thinking, you lean forward and try to pick it up quickly to get inside the house and you get a sharp, shooting pain down your arm. In this scenario, if you’re not using proper lifting mechanics, you’re setting yourself up for pain or injury to your arm and also your back.

Muscular imbalances and poor posture: As we age we tend to find the easiest and most comfortable positions to sit, stand, move in rather than worrying about what the most anatomical and ergonomically correct ones are. As a result, we slouch and lean forward to text, email our bosses and coworkers about a meeting, or even play candy crush to avoid making eye contact. Whatever the case may be, we’re letting our posture suffer and this causes muscular imbalances. These imbalances cause some of our neck, chest, shoulder and upper back muscles to work very hard while others are not working as hard. This leads to muscles soreness and tightness, which in turn leads to incorrect shoulder mechanics. As we become more hunched over with our posture, we are becoming extremely weak in our posterior muscles, causing compensation and injuries elsewhere. Age can also be an uncontrollable factor that makes you more susceptible to shoulder problems. Arthritis is a common condition in older populations can as we stat to lose cartilage in our shoulder joints, arthritic symptoms start leading to pain and inflammation in this joint.

Shoulder injuries can wreck havoc on your everyday activities. You may not be able to easily wash your hair, or reach up to put away dishes, turn the steering wheel to drive, throw a ball with your dog or lift up your kid. Handle your shoulder pain so it no longer interrupts your daily living! Here at Loudoun Sports Therapy Center we take the time to fully evaluate each patient individually to determine the source of their pain so we can create a personalized plan of care to help you reach your goals! We can minimize that pain, help you regain your range of motion, improve your strength, correct your posture and even out those muscle imbalances. Call our office today at 703-450-4300 so you can get you back to tossing your toddler in the air to get that smile that you love!

CLICK HERE to learn how to properly lift items so you don’t cause an unnecessary shoulder, back or neck injury.

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