Last week I published a whole lot of information about rehabbing/avoiding one of the most common lower extremities seen during the summer. Well now I feel it’s appropriate to discuss the upper extremity. I will lay out a quick fix to 99% of your shoulder pain all by yourself.
First the technical stuff (boo, amirite?) Below is the foundation for the self help you will provide, also- last year’s Halloween costume.
This is a photograph of what Janda describes as upper crossed syndrome. WARNING! WARNING! THE FOLLOWING IS ABOUT POSTURE- Helping your shoulder out is very much about posture. If you’ve given up on your posture- you’re not alone. Who cares enough to always be aware of how you’re sitting or standing or sleeping… SLEEPING! LIKE YOU REALLY HAVE THAT MUCH CONTROL OVER HOW YOU MOVE WHEN YOU’RE ASLEEP— If you are, you’re probably not sleeping that deep (Although there is one product I promote to help sleeping posture, once you get it posture you just set the contraption and BAM! sleep like a jedi in a Tauntaun.
Getting off that tangent. Posture is important, even though I don’t think we can truly be self conscious enough of it to please our physical therapist overlords. That being said, there are some things that can help it without freezing yourself in carbonite.
The picture above (the technical one, not the jedi one) shows muscles that are tight (short) or weak (long), below are some exercises to get you closer to that posture needed to avoid should problems like rotator cuff tears/ sprains/ impingement.
Welcome back to the
Dark fun side
First exercise focuses on the weak cervical flexors. Didn’t know you had cervical flexors? still don’t? well don’t sweat it, it’s simple. to avoid forward head posture, we need to have strength and motion to flex our head on our neck. not getting the visual? Look at this shocked cat…
Still not getting it? try this, imagine someone is trying to kiss you on the lips, but that someone has a gnarly cold sore… SEE HOW YOU PULLED YOUR HEAD BACK? that’s a chin tuck and is perfect to strengthen those cervical (capital) flexors. As long it doesn’t hurt, I suggest doing about 10 of these for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
2. Next up is the weak rhomboids/lower trapz. I feel like most people have a decent idea of what the rhomboid does and how to make it work- just squeeze your shoulder blades together. that’s cool, but not my fave, I like ball hugs. This works by grabbing a big ball (like a physioball) or maybe a huge folded (see: rolled up) comforter/duvet (lots of pillows work too) and squeezing your shoulder blades together while squeezing whatever object you choose.This can be held 10 seconds and repeated 10 times
3. Stretch armstrong gave us unrealistic expectations. That being said, be like ol’ stretch and… well.. stretch! Here we go this a two-parter the first is for the upper trapezius. Nice and simple- sit down and hold onto the bottom of your chair with your left hand, bring your right ear to your right shoulder and use your right hand as a weight to LIGHTLY stretch the left side of your shoulder/neck. Be careful not to use your right hand to pull, just as a weight to weigh down the head. Do this for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
4.Stretchy neck part 2 This time we will stretch a muscle called the levator scapulae. Make sure not to say this waving a wand a la Harry Potter. stretching this guy is similar to the last, except completely different.
This time you want to put your right arm behind your head around mid neck/upperback. Now look at your front left pocket. place your left hand atop your head and use it as a weight to LIGHTLY stretch your neck for 30 sec. and repeat on the other side
5. Lastly you want to stretch out the pectorals. Be gentle with this one folks. No stretch is no good, good stretch is great, monster stretch is the worst. Stand facing a door frame, put your right forearm on the side of the frame (most important part coming up…) GENTLY PULL YOUR SHOULDER BLADE DOWN now lean ever so gently and feel a tiny stretch across your chest. Is it intense? if so you probably went to far. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Well, that’s it! total it should take less than 5 minutes a day to help that shoulder with your postural corrections. I’d rather spend 5 minutes doing this than most of the day making sure my posture looks perfect
If in doing these exercises your shoulder starts to hurt, you may be either going to far or need to see a PT. if you start to feel nausea, like you’re going to pass out, have difficulty talking, numbness of your mouth/lips,tunnel or double vision- especially with the neck stretches, call an MD immediately.
Daniel Davids PT, DPT, CSCS
ITT: probably the dorkiest references ever made, basic shoulder rehab, an unpaid advertisement for a tibanna and carbonite freezing chamber (ok Mr Lucas, I believe it’s your turn to give me a shout out now…)