Shrugging off shoulder pain

SU Tribal Health

Surprisingly simple tips to heal a painful shoulder

Your shoulder is the most mobile joint in your body.  In fact, there are few movements you make in which your shoulder doesn’t move.  This is great for throwing and reaching, squeezing a hug or scratching that itchy spot between your shoulder blades.  But when it hurts every little turn and twist throbs right to the bone and your arm feels like it weighs fifty pounds.

Shoulder pain is extremely common, especially as we age.  If you develop shoulder pain do not be alarmed – most people with shoulder pain improve with physical therapy and exercise.  So much so that physical therapy has been found to be more effective than surgery for many common shoulder injuries.

Shoulder pain has many causes.  Falling, over-use, and poor posture are just a few of the common factors that can lead to a painful shoulder.  Fortunately, by following two simple principles many types of shoulder pain can be quickly fixed at home.

First, don’t stop moving! 

Shoulders are built for movement.  Pain, weakness, and even fear are often valid causes for patients to want to stop using their injured shoulder, however it will only slow your recovery.

The rotator cuff is a group of four tiny muscles and tendons that help control the fine movements of the shoulder, and it is also the most common source of pain in the shoulder.  Being so tiny these muscles often do not get much blood flow, and in our body blood flow equals healing.  Movement is the best way to flush these injured tissues full of blood and speed up the healing process.  It also helps to prevent stiffening of the shoulder, keeping it loose and limber until it heals.  However, there is a catch …

Second, keep the shoulder pain free!

Pain is annoying enough as is, but with it comes another pesky attribute – it turns muscles off.  Neurogenic inhibition is a fancy term that describes what happens when a muscle quits working properly because of pain.

When the shoulder hurts, the little rotator cuff muscles just throw in the towel and seemingly give up, slowing down your recovery.

Physical therapists have specific exercises that help to “wake up” the rotator cuff in a pain free manner, but you can also help to do this on your own at home.

Modifying your activity is the best way to keep these muscles active without flaring up your pain.  If your arm hurts to lift overhead don’t reach up quite so high with that side.  If it hurts to push or pull forcefully, only use that arm for light activities.  The key is to use your injured arm as much as you can, but only in pain-free ways.

Unable to find an activity that is pain free? You likely need to be seen by a physical therapist or other healthcare practitioner. Call the Tribal Health Center and make an appointment today we would love to help you feel better quickly.

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