Why do so many people suffer from shoulder pain?
Why is shoulder pain so common?
Shoulder pain and dysfunction is one of the most common complaints we see. Perhaps only neck pain and low back pain are more frequently seen. There are many reasons why so many people experience shoulder pain. The first is the shoulder is a very complex joint and is made up of at least four individual joints. As a general rule, the more complex something is, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.
The shoulder is highly vulnerable to referred pain and referred mechanical dysfunction from other areas in the body. This means that for healthy shoulder function to occur, first many other areas in the body need to be functioning optimally.
The primary function of the shoulder is mobility. Generally as mobility increases stability decreases, especially toward the end range of movement. This lack of stability increases the risk of pain and dysfunction within the shoulder. The shoulder gains comparatively more stability from muscles than other joints and muscles use far more energy to function than most other tissues in the body. This creates an increase in energy demand, making the shoulder more vulnerable to the effects of fatigue. Muscular fatigue often leads to muscular imbalance, poor posture, joint positional changes and faulty joint mechanics, which in turn can lead to acute and chronic pain.
What can you do about shoulder pain?
Okay, that is the bad news, what about the good news? If you have shoulder pain, there is a lot you can do. Before considering the specific, it is good to check your health generally first. Are you healthy? Have you had a recent health check? Are you sleeping enough? Is your diet okay?
Exercise is great way to help relieve shoulder pain, especially if it is due to poor posture, and can also help prevent occupational repetitive strain injuries. Do your workouts include a good balanced stretching routine? An important rule about exercise and the body is to “lengthen before you strengthen”. This is a good rule to remember as if you strengthen first you might be making the dysfunction even stronger by making short muscles even shorter.
As the shoulder is vulnerable to referred mechanical stress it is always good to first make sure the neck and upper back area is mobile. So, it is always good to stretch there first, then move to the shoulders. As the shoulder is vulnerable to poor posture, a balanced stretching routine for the shoulders can help correct this imbalance. However, be just as careful that you are not overstretching, as overstretching can lead to further instability. It is also important to make sure the stretches you are doing are safe. Studies have indicated that it is not lack of movement which increases risk of joint dysfunction and pain but rather muscular imbalance. Imbalance is a better indicator of whether somebody will experience pain or not, so focus on symmetry of stretches more than range of movement.
If you suffer from shoulder pain, instability and muscular imbalance are often important factors, so make sure your workout includes stability exercises. Stability exercises are often the most overlooked part of a shoulder workout. Also make sure your workout is balanced and not favoring one muscle group over another. Finally, are the exercises you doing safe? Many people do high-risk exercises that are damaging their shoulders. Think about if the exercises you are doing are helping or are they actually making the situation worse?
Contact us to make an appointment with Matthew Stevens. Matthew is specialized in integrative manual therapy, combining osteopathic treatments with medical massages as well as with some TCM techniques. He offers consultations at our Hongmei Road Clinic – Hongqiao.