Why is the shoulder so important? Unless you have never dealt with a shoulder injury before, then you probably already know what I’m talking about. But what you probably do not realize is how much you rely on your shoulder for activities of daily living. Having weakness, a reduced range of motion or persistent pain can make even the most seemingly easy task difficult and full of pain. Having a healthy and strong shoulder automatically increases one’s independence and overall ability to function.
Try a couple of things: Pretend to wash your hair, tuck your shirt in, reach your hands into your back pocket, reach for a glass in the cabinet, okay you get the point. The shoulder has to flex, extend, externally rotate and internally rotate, abduct away from the body and adduct towards the body. It is responsible for 6 motions to allow your hands to reach your face, to wash your hair, get dressed and even more, participate in sports and activities you love. If you lose even one motion, these activities can be severely affected. Go ahead and try to wash your hair without lifting your hand above your shoulder. Try tucking your shirt in the back without reaching behind. I’m sure if you are clever enough then you will find a way, that’s what we call compensation. But when you compensate you can affect other parts of the body, such as the neck and the back.
Not only is shoulder mobility important, but the strength of the entire shoulder girdle is vital due to the relationship of the shoulder, neck, and back. Take a look at the picture below and see how the shoulder, collar bone, and shoulder blade are all related. With an injury to one area, we tend to overuse another area which will cause strain and stress. This strain can manifest in headaches, back pain and even radiating pain that travels up and down the arm. My mother god rest her soul, would always pinch and slap her arm because the pain was too much too handle. After her stroke, my mom’s shoulder was stuck in an elevated position and she had reduced mobility followed by terrible pain. Was the pain really in the palm of her hand? NO!!! Read on.
The shoulder is essentially a major intersection where the highway of information from your spine, both sensory and motor, have to travel to innervate down your arm towards your fingertips and back. This highway is known as the brachial plexus. If there is too much tension in the muscles (I MEAN LOOK AT ALL OF THEM ABOVE), inflammation in the joint or a reduction in space due to degenerative changes of aging or injury, there will a pinching of the nerves or a traffic jam on the highway which results in a reduction of strength, increased or decreased sensation which could result in severe pain traveling up and down your arms! Who wants that!
So now what? Enroll in my Shoulder course in our series of “Rehab at Home” to learn key exercises to strengthen the region globally as well as ways to stretch the muscles and self-mobilize the joints to prevent impingement and future pain. I exercise not just for today but to keep my body strong ten years from now. What will your shoulder look like in ten years? Are you taking steps to keep it mobile and strong? Happy and healthy shoulders are hard to find, why strain yourself. Why live through the pain. Do something about it!
Here are some quick exercises and stretches you can incorporate to your daily living and for more information, you can also enroll in a course or schedule a 1:1 with Dr. Lauren, DPT today.
Stretches: Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute times 3 sets
Picture 1: Cross Arm Stretch, releasing the back and outer shoulder
Picture 2: Doorway Stretch, releasing the chest muscles and inner shoulder
Picture 3: Towel Stretch, releasing the internal and external rotators, switch arms
Strengthen 3 sets of 15 Reps
Picture 1: Push Up Plus: From a plank, you press into your hands keeping elbows straight (not locked out) and protract shoulder blades by separating them and return to neutral and repeat. Keep hands under shoulders.
Picture 2: D1/D2 Follow the picture, make sure you are rotating your hand from top to bottom keeping the shoulder depressed and elbow straight but not locked out.
Picture 3: ER/IR Either with a resistance band or side-lying with a dumbbell keep your elbow aligned with your shoulder and elbow bent at 90-degree angle moving your arm from bellow outwards and from outwards to belly.
To learn more, you can always sign up for the course or book a session.
See you back real soon. Stay safe and stay strong. I wanted to avoid making a post solely dedicated to COVID because I see it everywhere but I do think it is important to touch on the fact that our actions today have a global effect for many years to come. They have always had a global effect and now more than ever we can see. Take time in this moment of pause to reset and re-sync with your intention in this world and in your daily living. Find purpose and gratitude. Namaste.