As mentioned last week, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Continuing with my blog series on ‘Self-Defense Tips’ for different parts of the body, this week’s post deals with your shoulders.
All the joints in your body represent a trade-off between stability and mobility. In the shoulder, it is clear that mobility is the primary characteristic. Humans can move the shoulder easily in every direction. This movement is achieve through a beautiful engineering design which involves 18 muscles and 3 bones. But the price we have to pay for this freedom of movement is instability. In fact, of all the joints in the body, the shoulder has the greatest risk of dislocation. It is the intricate weave of connective tissue and muscle around the shoulder, that helps this joint glide and rotate without falling out of the socket!
You may have heard of the rotator cuff…a group of four muscles and tendons that surround your shoulder joint that are critical to the multidirectional movement and stability of the shoulder. The large majority of shoulder injuries are either directly to the rotator cuff or are caused secondarily by a poorly functioning rotator cuff. Tears to the cuff are common during extreme activity. In middle age, rotator cuff injuries are mostly due to wear and tear of repetitive motion. If you have a major tear, it will need to be surgically repaired. Otherwise, tears can be rehabilitated with passive therapies like low intensity laser in combination with addressing muscle dysfunctions in the neck, upper back, chest and shoulder areas.
The following are your key Self-Defense Tips for Shoulder Health:
- Have your posture checked. Gradual rotator cuff damage occurs if you have bad posture because the slouched position that many people have actually reduces the clearance for one of the tendons in rotator cuff. This causes the tendon to be repeatedly irritated with various shoulder movements.
- Avoid doing too much overhead activities. Anything that requires you to reach above your head alot will cause repetitive stress injury to the rotator cuff. Things like volleyball, baseball, tennis are sports that commonly cause shoulder problems. Occupations like electricians, drywallers, carpenters, etc. which require alot of daily overhead work also are at great risk for injury. They key is to vary your activities as much as possible. And make sure you stretch and strengthen related muscles to counteract the negative effects of overhead work.
- Avoid sleeping with your arm overhead…this is like combining the bad effects of #1 and #2.
- For any strenuous activity, keep your arms as close to your body as possible. The further outstretched your arm is from your body, the greater the instabiliy of the joint and the greater likelihood of injury.
- Avoid barbell bench presses and shoulder presses when working out at the gym. The solid bar limits the natural movement of the shoulder compared to dumbbells. Plus, the classic press exercises all put your shoulder joint in the most dangerous and harmful position. There are better exercises that will help prevent shoulder injury while still allowing you to get a good workout!
- If you regularly carry any sort of bag (purse, briefcase, backpack, etc.), make a conscious effort to switch shoulders periodically. Most people have a regular habit of carrying bags only on their dominant side. Over the long term, you will develop muscle imbalances that will eventually result in pain and injury to the shoulder as well as neck and back.
If you need preventative or rehabilitative treatment for shoulder pain, we are here to help in Richmond Hill!