Do you currently have or have you suffered shoulder pain in the past? Then this article is for you!
Shoulder pain is super common and pretty much everyone is going to experience it at some stage in their life. It can be super frustrating as we use our shoulders a LOT in day to day life, whether it be at the gym or just trying to reach a cup from a high cupboard. The good news is that it can be pretty simple to manage if you get it checked out early! I love working with shoulders and in my experience treating them in the clinic there are 3 main factors that need to be addressed to optimise shoulder health and minimise your pain.
1. Adequate Range Of Motion
The shoulder is designed to move! It is the most mobile joint in the body and has been a big factor in allowing humans to evolve as far as we have. In saying this, our mostly sedentary life now means that we are rarely taking our shoulders through their full range of motion. Having a mobile shoulder joint will allow you to use your shoulder without certain structures and getting overloaded and sore.
How much range of motion you need is purely dependant on what you try and put your shoulders through! If you are frequently going to the gym or playing sport, it is more important to have adequate range of motion than if you sit at a desk all day.
Below are some minimum standards that I expect people to hit:
- Shoulder elevation 170-180 degrees (raising arm out in front)
- Shoulder abduction 160-180 degrees (raising arm out to the side)
- Shoulder external rotation >90-100 degrees (>110 if gym goers or overhead athlete)
- Shoulder internal rotation >60 degrees
Hitting these numbers is a great first step in keeping your shoulders pain free, or starting to decrease your pain if you are already experiencing some pain.
2. Adequate strength of the muscles of the shoulder
Another important aspect to maintaining healthy shoulders is having adequate strength of the muscles around the shoulder, especially the rotator cuff and muscles that help move the shoulder blade. Having adequate levels of strength has been shown to reduce risk of overuse injuries by 50%!
Unfortunately, and once again mostly due to our sedentary lifestyle that require lots of work in front of the body (typing, writing, driving etc) we tend to lack strength in the muscles of the shoulder, especially the external rotators.
Below are some strength standards that I see in the clinic when people start to feel a lot better in their shoulders:
- External rotation 8-10 kg of force
- Internal rotation 12-14 kg of force
(We use hand held dynamometers within our clinic to measure and track these numbers for you!)
These are bare minimums that I like everyone to hit. Once again, if you are an athlete or a regular gym goer, you could do with having numbers slightly higher than this.
3. Give them a break when they need it
The final key to keeping your shoulders healthy is giving them a break when they need it! It pains me when someone comes into the clinic saying they have had shoulder pain for over 6 months and only now just decided to do something about it!
Unfortunately, shoulder pain rarely resolves on its own, with up to 40% of people still having shoulder pain up to 12 months after they first started feeling it. If you are going to the gym and start feeling your shoulder starting to hurt with a specific movement, the easiest plan is to decrease how much you are doing of that movement by 50% for 2 weeks. Then, after that 2 weeks, start to gradually progress back up to where you were.
Sometimes our shoulders are just overworked and need a break!
Hopefully by reading this you have an understanding of some of the basic measures you need to work on to maintain healthy shoulders. If you are experiencing issues, stay tuned for the next blog where I will discuss some of the simplest ways to tackle the 3 keys mentioned above. Or, conversely, feel free to get in touch via the form below and one of expert shoulder physios will be in touch to help answer any questions you may have and how we can help you.