The shoulder is one of the most interesting joints in the body, boasting of a 360° range of motion, granting it flexibility and it still has strength due to the muscles that secure it to the body. No wonder it is my favorite joint.
But with great freedom comes great responsibility hence it is one of our most used joints in posture, movement and activities of daily life. We need the shoulder to be at its peak performance and not fail us.
As a result overuse injuries at the shoulder are quite common.
The Pinching Shoulder
This is when one experiences a twinge or a sharp pain at the shoulder only in specific movements with most other movements normal. The pain tends to be in the front or side of the shoulder with difficulty with everyday activities such as combing hair, reaching for the back pocket, and putting on a shirt or bra.
This pain is caused by the pinching of the rotator cuff tendons at the joint due to a shift in the bones. This happens when the muscles stabilizing the shoulder joint are imbalanced or weak. Thus the tendon is vulnerable, particularly with repetitive overhead activities.
The shoulder pain can last for a few weeks, or the pain could be recurring over a matter of years. You may note shoulder stiffness and/or weakness limiting daily activities such as carrying bags and picking up children.
If untreated it can end up as a rotator cuff tear in the long run. If rehabilitation is done to balance the muscles, the recovery is quite good with most of the symptoms eradicated.
A frozen shoulder starts with a dull, achy shoulder pain that begins at night. The pain then becomes apparent with small shoulder movements such as putting on a shirt, brushing hair, and reaching for a wallet in the back pocket. The pain progresses to pain even at rest. As the pain intensifies and becomes more constant, and then comes the loss of movement. This is sometimes known as the “freezing stage”.
It has a gradual onset with increase in pain and inability to move the shoulder. In this case there is involvement of multiple muscles and the joint capsule of the shoulder.
It can last from 1 month to 2 years. Over time it can get better without any interventions, but at a slow pace. With physiotherapy we see better results in managing the symptoms and aid in recovery.
How do you manage and prevent shoulder pain?
- Go to your Physiotherapists to get a proper assessment of what is causing the pain. With the right diagnosis we are able to provide a good plan of treatment.
- Avoid sleeping directly on the shoulder but instead lie on your shoulder blade. This takes pressure off the shoulder joint and muscles.
- Try and exercise and strengthen the shoulders in order to balance all the muscles and provide support for the shoulders.
- Have a good posture while sitting, ensure your shoulders are straight as is your back resting on the chair. Office desk personnel tend to have a higher incidence of shoulder pain due to poor posture and low levels of movement and activity.
- Manual of musculoskeletal medicine / Grant Cooper, Joseph E. Herrera.
Joy W. Waihenya.
Chiropractic & Physiotherapy Health Centre