Don’t Let Shoulder Pain Stop Your Warm-Weather Plans

Whether it’s digging in the garden or throwing a baseball in the backyard with the kids, this is the season for having fun outdoors. But it can also be the time for shoulder pain.

Although many equate shoulder pain with a traumatic injury, such as a car accident, a fall or sports injury, a majority of shoulder injuries are caused by repetitive activities combined with faulty biomechanics. Common activities, such as painting the ceiling in your house, throwing a baseball without stretching or taking boxes off a high shelf can lead to unexpected shoulder pain.

What causes shoulder pain?

In the shoulder, there is a bony projection called the acromion. In some people, the acromion is hooked or there are bone spurs on the bottom of it. This creates less space within the shoulder for the rotator cuff muscles to travel, which can lead to pinching of the muscle. This pinching can cause shoulder pain.

Another common factor that causes shoulder pain is poor posture. Many of us spend our days at a computer. This causes us to sit in a slumped position. Over time, our bodies adapt to this position and the muscles in the front of our body get tight, while the muscles in our upper back get weak. This can cause the shoulder blades to tilt forward, creating less space for the rotator cuff muscles to travel, thus causing pinching and pain.

Lack of mobility of the shoulder joint also can cause shoulder pain. If the shoulder begins to stiffen and the joint becomes tight, the shoulder does not have the mobility to move down when lifting overhead. Once again, the muscle can become pinched and shoulder pain can result.

There are things you can do to avoid painful shoulder injuries.

The most important tip to avoid shoulder injuries is to stop whatever activity you are doing when the pain begins. Do not push through the pain! Apply ice and call a doctor if the pain does not subside.

Take frequent breaks while doing repetitive work, even if you do not have pain. Your shoulder is most vulnerable to injury when your muscles are tired and not able to stabilize your shoulder properly.

Improve your posture, not only when you are sitting at a computer, but also while performing repetitive activities.

Keep your rotator cuff and shoulder blade muscles strong. Performing exercises prescribed by a physical therapist several times a week can help prevent injury.

Thankfully, there are established treatments available to help relieve shoulder pain.

For the first few days after a shoulder injury occurs, the main goal is to reduce the inflammation and pain. I suggest you avoid the activity or motion that caused the pain and use anti-inflammatory treatments such as ice or ibuprofen.

Of course, the best thing you can do after sustaining a shoulder injury is to see a doctor and get started on a physical therapy regimen as soon as possible.

In fact, at Good Shepherd, some of the most common injuries we treat deal with overuse of the shoulder. They include rotator cuff tendonitis, shoulder bursitis, partial- to full-thickness rotator cuff tears, shoulder instability and post-operative shoulder surgeries.

In physical therapy, you will learn ways to modify or avoid the activities that are causing your shoulder pain, along with proper posture to avoid pain in the future.

If your injury leads to loss of motion within the shoulder joint, a physical therapist can develop a regimen to increase your range of motion and strength over time.

This can be a beautiful time of year filled with fun activities and no pain, but you have to listen to your body. After all, you don’t want to spend the summer months stuck in the house with a hurt shoulder when you could be outside enjoying the warm sun!

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