Shoulder pain impacts approximately 70% of people at some point in their lives with a prevalence of increase after the age of 40. It’s one of the leading causes of pain due to the unstable nature of the shoulder. This is why your shoulder has so much motion.
Shoulder pain is a big problem in this country. But the even bigger problem, in my opinion, is how the traditional medical system treats and manages those suffering from shoulder pain.
What can cause shoulder pain without injury?
Despite what you may have been told, getting rid of shoulder pain on your own is entirely possible, and preventing it can be even easier.
But it starts with understanding what the true cause of shoulder pain is for most people. Eighty percent of shoulder pain is “mechanical” in origin, which means it’s not due to any serious pathology like cancer, infection, or fracture.
Shoulder pain is the result of abnormal forces or imbalances occurring in the structures between the three bones that make up your shoulder complex – like your ligaments, muscles, and tendons. These imbalances can accumulate slowly over your lifetime or happen quickly in a single event – such as falling or doing something at a weird angle.
The good news is that if the imbalances can cause your shoulder pain, then reversing those imbalances can get rid of your shoulder pain!
Surgery and other medical procedures won’t do that. They only impact the structure or irritant that is aggravated, like when you inject the area and mask the issues. The goal for true shoulder pain recovery is to eliminate what is causing those structures to be aggravated in the first place – and the best way to do that is with healthy movement you can do on your own!
Here are 5 tips to help you minimize imbalances of your shoulder so you can avoid procedures and surgery!
1. Stop sitting so much
Compressive forces on your spine increase by 40% when you sit – and it goes up even more if you’re slouched! Over time, these compressive forces will start to stiffen parts of your spine – like your thoracic spine area. Your shoulders sit on your ribs which are attached to your spine.
Because it happens slowly, you may not notice right away, so one of the best things you can do is interrupt your sitting at least every 30 min. This minimizes the accumulation of poor posture that leads to stiff shoulders.
2. Move more
Our shoulders were designed to be strong and mobile. To ensure that, we sacrifice stability. Which means we have a ton of movement. When you move your shoulders in all directions regularly, it helps to promote good mobility of the joints, which can make sure that the tendons stay healthy too.
Most rotator cuff tears happen due to wear and tear due to the imbalances of the bones that rub and rub on the tendon. Tight capsules of the shoulder also can cause what is called Impingement syndrome and over time irritate the rotator cuff tendons.
Shoulder problems tend to surface after the age of 40, and can be avoided by knowing how to move properly so that the humerus bone and the scalper’s bone do not rub together causing problems like tendinitis, impingement, and worse – rotator cuff tears that require surgery.
3. Vary your posture
You might be wondering why I didn’t say “maintain good posture.” To be honest, perfect posture all the time is kind of a myth. It’s not possible to constantly be sitting straight. And sometimes being “too straight” is not good either.
The truth is your shoulders are resilient and should be able to tolerate lots of different postures – even bad posture for a short period – without pain. The problem is when we assume the same posture all the time. Then because you have stiffened up, doing some “wrong move” like overreaching or sleeping on the same side can cause pain.
4. Strengthen your rotator cuff muscles
The stronger you are, the more resilient your shoulder is going to be – period. When it comes to shoulder health, having good strong rotator cuff muscles is going to minimize stress on your tendons. When the muscles around your shoulders are strong, it’s going to be easier for you to lift or reach in any direction, which is one of the most common ways people injure their shoulders.
If your rotator cuff muscles along with all the support shoulder muscles of your upper back and chest aren’t doing their job, your rotator cuff tendons end up taking more of the stress – and this can lead to both pain and injury.
5. Educate yourself
There is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to both diagnosing and treating shoulder pain. You should never let an MRI or X-ray alone dictate what your treatment should be.
Remember, the structures in your shoulders don’t get spontaneously irritated. Irritation typically occurs due to imbalanced movements of your total shoulder joint. If you only address the irritating structure – like with an injection, procedure, or surgery – you’re not fixing the problem.
The best way to address abnormal forces in your shoulders is with movement – a movement that is designed to even out the forces in your thoracic spine, along with the muscles that support movement and relieve pressure from those structures that have become aggravated.
If you don’t currently have shoulder pain – then these tips are going to help you prevent shoulder pain from ever occurring. If you’re currently having some mild shoulder pain or discomfort, then see if any of these tips help you to relieve it on your own! But as always, if you’ve been suffering for a while, then it’s best to seek professional advice from an expert.
Written by Hoang Tran
About the author – Hoang Tran – Miami Occupational Therapist
Hoang Tran is a Miami certified hand therapist , the owner of Hands-on Therapy Services and author of the book “The Hands-On Approach”. She loves helping people with hand, neck and shoulder problems, because she knows how bad and debilitating they can get if not addressed and treated properly (once and for all!).
The aim of her occupational therapy practice in the Miami area is to bring patients back to full functionality, without pills, injections or surgery. Occupational and Physical Therapy are both offered at Hands-On Therapy by our experienced therapists who provide a comprehensive approach to your care.
If you are struggling with shoulder, neck pain or hand pain, including
or any other hand, elbow or neck injuries, speak with one of our specialists for FREE by signing up for a 30-minute Discovery Visit here!
You can also access our expertly written guide to managing Shoulder pain for free!
In these difficult times, we are here to help. Telehealth and online sessions are available!
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.