Chronic shoulder pain and what to do about it
Shoulder impingement syndrome or rotator cuff strain
My mom recently developed a right shoulder problem. She lost motion and had difficulty bringing her arm behind her back, across her chest and had weakness lifting it up. Lifting anything of weight was painful. She consulted a Physical Therapist (I know what you’re thinking, but my mom lives in Canada and I was not able to evaluate her at the start of her problem, just saying) that diagnosed shoulder impingement and gave her exercises and recommended massage therapy. After a week of attempting her prescribed exercises, with 2 to 3 days of pain after each time, she finally stopped and was able to progress with a more gentle activity approach and massage therapy. The end of the story is better. My mom did have a biomechanical issue. When this was addressed her mobility improved immediately and her pain and strength increased. This was over two treatments and 3 days. She is currently back to weight training and road biking.
Over the years I have seen a lot of shoulder problems. The one thing that has been consistent with each case has been changes in how the shoulder moved. Shoulder motion was no longer normal and posture was not optimal. Here are a few things to look for that will indicate a bio-mechanical problem.
- While lying down is your painful shoulder forward or closer to the ceiling?
- Raise your arms as high as they go in front of a mirror. Is the space between your head and neck different from one arm to the other?
If there is a bio-mechanical issue present exercise can be helpful but rarely addresses the underlying cause. Restoring normal and efficient motion and improving restricted tissue, should be the starting point prior to significant exercise. If you have an alignment issue on your car driving on the interstate and taking the corners faster doesn’t fix the problem. Tread wear will continue and may even speed up. So with any chronic condition be aware if a medical provider starts with exercise before or even in place of determining the cause and correcting the biomechanics. That said, gentle exercises addressing more efficient movement patterns as well as restoring motion and circulation are a great way to start. With any treatment you should be feeling better each week.
Address the bio-mechanical problem before exercising.