The shoulder is one of our favorite joints in the body, it’s so unique!
No other joint in the body has so much motion and can create so much torque. I mean, the shoulder can throw a 100 MPH fastball!
But if the shoulder is so powerful why does it just quit on us some days?
It has probably happened to you if you are reading this blog. Your shoulder is a little sore one day after a workout. It’s fine by the evening so you forget about it. Couple days later you lift your arm to open the freezer and you experience a sharp sudden pain. Next day at the gym your press isn’t happening, pain and no power. You start noticing daily pain, pouring milk, washing your hair. If you are a parent, you go to pick up that kid and end up with a one arm grip as your other one burns with pain.
We can’t take our shoulders for granted!! They take a lot of crap as we move through our lives, and not being able to lift your arm is no joke.
This is why we see so many people with shoulder pain. It’s easy to use and abuse your shoulders. Even if you regularly exercise, they often need special maintenance.
Where does this pain come from? It doesn’t actually just show up overnight.
While the name behind the pain: rotator cuff tears, shoulder impingement, shoulder bursitis, etc. varies, often the causes are similar:
Limited Mobility (shoulder or upper back)
Poor Coordination and Strength
Before we get into screening, we’ve already created a resource to help you give the proper maintenance to your shoulders TODAY, no equipment required.
Limited Mobility: The Shoulder - Flexion/Overhead
The first main restriction we see in most people with shoulder pain is the ability to put their arms over their head. A lot of times people can get them overhead, but only if they shift or bend other parts of their body such as the upper back.
Back discomfort after pressing overhead sounding familiar?
Grab a broom or PVC pipe and test out exactly how much mobility you have in that shoulder!
Limited Mobility: The Shoulder - Impingement/Internal Rotation
Shoulder internal rotation is a very important range of motion to have in order to reach behind the back, supporting overhead motion, and being able to keep loads close while lifting, commonly referred to as “keep the bar close”.
The 3/4 side lying position allows us to test this range of motion on our own. Typically 70 degrees of motion is needed.
This position also nicely mimics the test for “shoulder impingement” or the sensitivity of the rotator cuff when pressed on by bone by pressing your hand further down once your able to find your natural range of motion.
Painful when pressing down or when moving initially is an indication of sensitivity that needs to be addressed in the superior and posterior rotator cuff. This is where most people struggle to coordinate.
Something we will test for below.
Limited Mobility: Upper Back
The shoulder connects to the main trunk at the thorax. Meaning the foundation of any shoulder movement is dependent on the upper back (thoracic spine) and the ability of the upper back to position itself correctly to support the shoulder.
Think of it like trying to kick a ball but not having the other foot set firmly. The better positioned the foundation, the easier it is to move and use another part of the body.
Here is a quick screen to see how well your upper back is moving.
Noticing some limitations range of motion? Want to start addressing them?
Instability: The Rotator Cuff
The shoulder is often related to a golf ball on a golf tee due to it’s anatomy. Ever notice how hard it can be at times to keep a golf ball on a tee?
Luckily your body has muscles positioned to keep that golf ball right in place. You may have heard of them, four muscles make up your ROTATOR CUFF!
Muscles specifically designed to keep your shoulder right in place so you can do what you want.
Due to most of our daily life happening in front of us the front rotator cuff (subscapularis ) is normally very strong the top (supraspinatus) and back (infraspinatus and teres major) often are not.
Think of it like grip strength. It doesn’t matter how strong you are if you can't hold onto the objects to move them.
One of the biggest indicators of weakness here that can result in instability can be found with a simple test.
Don’t have a partner? Stand next to a wall and do this instead. How confident are you producing pressure in this position?
Coordination: Scapular Muscles
Remember when we were talking about the fact that the upper back is the connection for the shoulder? Well it actually has a middle man, your shoulder blade. And it’s very important. A whole THIRD or your overhead motion comes from the shoulder blade positioning.
But the connection to the upper back is not one of bone, it’s one of muscles. This is where the revered low and middle traps come into play.
The better positioned the shoulder blade, the better and safer the shoulder is to operate.
Most people are quite good with trap strength when their hands are at their sides, think rowing, you can row without pain. But can you press? We often find that the shoulder issues come when the arm starts moving upwards.
Give these screens a try and see how you do!
Don’t have a partner? Place the arm under a chair/table while on hands and knees and press up in the same two positions. Do you feel this working in your upper back? How strong do you feel in your upper back during this test?
So how’d it go? Which one was the most difficult?
Sometimes all you need is a correcting of one of these areas to make a huge impact on your shoulder health and resolve pain.
However, we recommend regular care of ALL of these areas.
You know where to find out how to do this!
Ready to take ownership of your health? Sick of guessing what might work and ready to address the root cause of pain for a full and active lifestyle? If you make progress with our Top 5 Steps but need more, we would like to speak with you!!
Real People. Real Pain. Real Work. Real Results.
Click HERE to set up your free 15 minute phone consultation with a Specialist to see how we can help!
🚫The content in this is NOT medical or health advice and is intended for educational and entertainment purposes only. See a healthcare professional if you have any questions about your individual healthcare needs.🚫