Think about how often you use your shoulder. It’s no wonder it is one of the most commonly injured joints in the body! The anatomy of the shoulder alone demonstrates its susceptibility to injury.
Most joints in the body have a large surface area to keep the bones in place. Take a look at the shoulder, however. If it weren’t for the muscles surrounding the bone, the humerus would fall right out of the joint! The muscles around the shoulder provide its main support system, so any injury or imbalance of your shoulder muscles can cause pain and difficulty with movement. One such injury we often see at Virginia Therapy & Fitness Center is shoulder impingement syndrome.
‘Impingement’ is a term that refers to a joint pinching or running out of space with a movement. This frequently occurs with overhead movement or reaching across the body.
The reason for this stems from your rotator cuff muscles. If they aren’t strong enough to support the humerus bone, the large muscle that runs along the back (upper trapezius muscle) can become overactive and cause your shoulder to shrug forward for compensation. This shoulder shrug could be the root of your pain, as it causes the humerus bone to pinch against the top of the shoulder joint. Quickly, a vicious cycle may begin if the upper trapezius muscle continues to tighten, weakening the rotator cuff and exacerbating the problem.
Patients typically describe shoulder impingement as a sharp pain that occurs with specific arm movements. Pain can be felt in the shoulder, arm, or neck and leads to limited range of motion and/or muscle weakness.
We commonly see this condition brought on in patients who naturally shrug their shoulders when standing or sitting. Sometimes, this can be a result of sitting with arm rests elevated, causing the shoulders to shrug upwards and compress the joint. Other times, people who frequently exercise and lift weights neglect their rotator cuff muscles, creating an imbalance.
1. External rotation of the shoulder
The focus of this exercise is to keep the elbows against your sides and rotate the shoulder as far out as is comfortable. Return slowly to the starting position. You should feel the muscles behind your scapula working.
2. Push-up shoulder taps
This exercise works on shoulder stability. The exercise is easiest on an elevated surface like a bed or a table. The lower you go with your hands, the harder it gets. Try and minimize any rocking back and forth to force your shoulder to stabilize you.
3. Prone Y
This exercise focuses on the lower trapezius muscle, which works to keep the shoulder depressed and counteract the upper trapezius. The focus is on maintaining a depressed shoulder and think about moving your scapula down and in while performing the exercise. This is a tough one so light weight at the start is best.
Overcoming shoulder impingement syndrome will be difficult on your own. Schedule an initial evaluation at Virginia Therapy & Fitness Center to confirm your diagnosis and receive the latest treatment offerings including Laser Therapy, Trigger-Point Dry Needling, and joint mobilization.