Shoulder Pain Can Be Debilitating
Shoulder pain can be one of the most debilitating ailments we treat in our clinic, one which can significantly limit your ability to lift, push, pull, and complete the most basic daily functions. When you are suffering from shoulder pain, it is often difficult to lift above your head, reach for items that are high up in the cupboard, or tuck in a t-shirt. Getting in and out of the car and fastening your seat belt can be very difficult, and at times nearly impossible.
Causes of Shoulder Pain
There are many causes, or possible reasons to develop shoulder pain. Overuse, repetitive overhead lifting, pushing exercises in the gym to heavy too soon, or simply lifting the gallon milk jug out of the refrigerator may all be causes of your shoulder pain. There are times when an underlying structural cause or significant injury may be causing your pain.
What to Do About It
The question always remains; What do I do about it? You have a few options:
- Ignore the pain and hope it goes away
- This is obviously the least recommended option. This involves suffering through pain that may be a deep ache, nagging throb, sharp shooting pains with lifting, and possibly numbness and tingling into the fingers and hand. Pain wears on your energy levels and motivation through the day making you feel tired and worn out. Chronic pain reduces your patients during challenging times with friends and loved ones, makes you irritable, and often deprives your body of much needed sleep and rest to rejuvenate your body.
- Take heavy doses of NSAIDs and other toxic drugs
- Although FDA approved and readily available in your local supermarket and pharmacy, chronic use of medications like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen have some pretty serious side-effects. Abdominal pain, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, constipation, indigestion, and increase risk of heart attack (www.mayoclinic.org).
- See your family doctor
- Your family doctor is a good first step. The interventions at the hands of the general family physician are somewhat limited. Prescribing medications and possibly performing a cortisone injection.
- Start some light exercises and strengthening in the gym
- You can try to piece together some stretches and exercises that may or may not improve the mobility and strength of the shoulder. You do not want to over irritate or further injure or inflame the already weak and painful joint and structures involved. Over-stretching and working with machines commonly found in the gym to exercise the shoulder may only serve to cause more problems.
Tips to Relieve Shoulder Pain
Here are my Top 5 Tips to relieve shoulder pain:
- Change what you are doing to make it sore
- This sounds very simple, but can be one of the most difficult things to do. Changing your daily routine and activities to reduce the stress on the shoulder, thus allowing it to recover and heal. Repetitive reaching and lifting over-head puts excessive stress and shearing forces across the rotator cuff and shoulder joint. Lower the work station to shoulder height or below, or raise your height up by using a step stool or small ladder to reduce the amount of time the shoulders sit in the raised up or overhead positions.
- Warm it up
- There is certainly a place for ice, but it is a very limited window. Ice is most effective within 24-72 hours from an injury or surgery. I typically recommend the use of moist heat to improve blood flow to the restricted and tight tissues. Moist heat will penetrate deep into the joint helping to ease that deep ache and improve the range of motion of the joint
- Improve your posture
- A job or daily routine that requires an extended amount of time in the sitting position with a work station in front of you will cause you to naturally roll your shoulders forward and lean your head in and down. This results in tight chest muscles, weak upper back muscles, and possible pinched nerves and restricted blood flow. Every 30 minutes stand up perform light stretches; crossing the arms in front of the chest and hold, neck rotations and lateral bends, and rolling the shoulders forwards and backwards. This will reduce the amount of tension and tightness in the chest and shoulders.
- Avoid heavy pushing and pulling
- Pushing heavy carts and pulling with high force will put undue pressure on the shoulder joint and muscles surrounding it. The amount of force required to push or pull the object is transferred deep in the shoulder joint pinching off and closing the already tight space.
- Move it!
- Too often the tendency is to avoid movement because it hurts. Our body is made to move and designed for movement and activity. By performing light stretches and easy movement to the shoulder you will reduce the inflammation, improve blood flow to the tight and restricted muscles, and reduce the risk of developing additional problems associated with no movement in the joint. Start very slowly with easy swinging motions to your side, sliding your arm across a table or countertop, and progressing to using a cane or rod to help assist with lifting and raising your arm up into various planes and angles. Once you can raise your arm up to shoulder height and above shoulder height on your own, you can start using your uninjured arm to assist with the stretching.
There are my TOP 5 tips to relieve your shoulder pain. These should provide you with some tools to improve your condition. If you experience an increase in pain, weakness, or numbness in the arm or hand please contact our shoulder specialists at 1-800-930-8803 as we specialize in the treatment of all shoulder and arm conditions.