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Muscle discomfort throwing off workouts

By Alyssa Burke, LPTA

We probably take for granted how mobile or shoulders are until we are unable to move them as freely because of pain or tightness or discomfort. Have you ever tried to pull your shirt on in the morning and felt a pinch in the shoulder? There are many conditions that may cause us to experience pain, loss of range of motion or stiffness in our shoulders. These problems don’t have to happen following a traumatic injury such as a car crash or falling on an outstretched arm. Often, shoulder problems occur over time from overuse and repetitive motions, especially overhead motions. Three of the most common conditions are frozen shoulder, impingement, and rotator cuff tears.

Some common shoulder injuries include frozen shoulder, shoulder impingement and rotator cuff tears. 

Frozen Shoulder is also known as Adhesive Capsulitis. This occurs when the shoulder capsule thickens and becomes stiff. This usually is a slow process that occurs over time and often can happen without any injury to your shoulder. If you have frozen shoulder, you will experience a loss of range of motion, stiffness and pain when trying to actively and passively move your shoulder.  Ignoring frozen shoulder could cause it to worsen leading to more pain and a greater loss of range of motion.

Impingement is a condition in which tendons in the shoulder rub against bony structures in the shoulder causing the tendons to become irritated and inflamed. This commonly occurs with excessive overheard movements and activities. When the tendons become inflamed, pain is often felt especially when trying to move your arm overhead. If left untreated, pain and inflammation could worsen and a tear could form in the tendon.

Rotator cuff tears are one of the most common shoulder injuries. They can happen over time from overuse or from a traumatic injury. The rotator cuff consists of 4 muscles that surround the shoulder joint. These muscles work to stabilize the shoulder joint and let you move your shoulder in all directions. When one or more of these muscles have a tear you will often experience pain when trying to move your arm and will also notice you will be unable to move your arm throughout the full range of motion. Depending on the severity of the tear, some tears may require surgery to repair the muscle and tendons. Physical therapy can help decrease pain and regain range of motion and strength whether surgery is required or not.

All of these shoulder conditions can be treated with physical therapy. With the right treatment plan, exercises can be used to help you regain range of motion, strengthen the shoulder musculature, and ensure correct movement patterns to allow for pain-free movements and allow you to return to your daily activities and hobbies. Don’t wait until it’s too late; see how physical therapy can help you with your shoulder pain before it becomes a bigger problem!

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