Shoulder Pain: Getting the Weight Off Your Shoulders

Jul 26, 2017

Elijah Chiang

by Elijah Chiang
PT, DPT | Tempe Location

When it comes to pain, the lower back has always been the ailment that got the most attention. Shoulder pain just had to shrug it off, even though it’s responsible for rotator cuff tears, shoulder impingement, thoracic outlet syndrome, neck pain, and chronic migraines in millions of patients across the US.
Symptoms requiring shoulder pain treatment often begin innocently with little clicking or popping as you move your arms. Our patients say that they’ve been clicking and popping for most of their life and now, many years later, they have an incomprehensible pinching pain in their shoulder.
These injuries can range from slight soreness in the shoulder to full-blown rotator cuff tears that will require a surgical intervention up to shoulder replacement. The recovery from these operations tends to be painful, difficult, and protracted. Most patients need 10-14 weeks of intensive shoulder physical therapy afterward, if not more, before being able to return to their previous quality of life.
The good news is that many of the symptoms are preventable, and correctable if spotted early enough. The most common issues we see are related to poor shoulder alignment and even worse shoulder movement. I recommend that anyone who has had a past injury to schedule an appointment for visit at one of our Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy locations throughout the valley for custom shoulder physical therapy. However, it’s never too early to start addressing your symptoms. Here are some of my favorite tips on how to reduce your shoulder pain.
Don’t Hold the World on Your Shoulders
Ladies, most of your purses are too heavy. All too often, I’ll greet a new patient reporting shoulder pain stating that “I have no idea why my shoulder is hurting” or that “it came out of nowhere.” A quick test reveals that their large purse is roughly 15lbs.
Through plenty of experiences carrying my mother and girlfriend’s purses, I frequently advise my female patients to reduce the amount of items in their purse. Many of my patients respond well to this suggestion.
A simple reduction of even a few pounds significantly decreases stress on the shoulder joint. The most common source of shoulder pain is decreased space in the shoulder for your arm to move. This is most often caused by poor alignment due to shoulders that are sitting too low. Reduce the weight. Increase the space. Decrease the pain.
Posture, Posture, Posture
I find that the majority of my shoulder physical therapy patients have extremely poor posture. Here are some general tips to improving your posture to prevent pain.

  • Limit your computer time and elevate your computer screen; the most ergonomic position is for your screen to be is level with your eyes. Spending less time slouched over your keyboard and mouse will further help with your shoulder positioning.
  • Unweight your shoulders by using your armrests or table to rest your forearms. Each arm is approximately 6.5% of your body weight. That’s 13% of your body weight dragging on your upper body for 8 hours a day if you have a sit-down job.
  • Watch your head and shoulder position. Tucking your chin in results in better posture. Roll your shoulders up and back, not down. Most patients immediately pull their shoulders down when I ask them to show me a good posture; this position decreases space within your shoulder joint and increases impingement. By rolling them backward at a 45° angle, you activate the muscles that can better support your arm.

Do you like to move it, move it?
The shoulder is a complex joint that needs tuning, just like a clock. If one part moves too much or too little, the rest of the joint is strained. Treatment for the shoulder is often corrected with strengthening exercises of your middle and lower trapezius muscle, and rotator cuff muscle.
However, strengthening alone isn’t enough; it’s just as important for you to integrate these movements in daily life. My personal favorites are wall slides, prone mid-trap squeezes, scapular retractions, and PNF D2 flexion exercises, however, these are just the basics. These exercises are simple and pain-free. I often joke with my patients that it’s like having a Lamborghini in your garage but not knowing how to drive.
To learn more about shoulder pain online, visit our body map within our services page. I strongly recommend that you schedule an appointment with one of our movement experts at Foothills so that our team can provide you with the best preventative and corrective care. We want to ensure that your shoulders will be in perfect shape to pick up your future grandchildren.

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