Sometimes, it can feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders — literally. Shoulder pain can occur at any age, along with related symptoms like stiffness and immobility. But like other joint-related problems, it tends to be more common among athletes and older people. Is it possible to prevent shoulder pain with exercise? First, let’s answer a few important questions.
What’s causing my shoulder pain?
Trauma from accidents causes some shoulder pain. But for many people, strain and repetitive use are the main culprits. Overuse causes common problems like impingement, arthritis, and capsulitis (also called “frozen shoulder”).
With these issues, you can have a lot of pain with even the simplest of movements, including reaching and lifting. In some cases, even brushing your hair can be painful.
Why is shoulder pain worse at night?
It seems like common sense: If your joint hurts, a little rest should help it. But with your shoulder, lying down often makes the pain worse. Why? Mostly it has to do with the way gravity is tugging on the joint. When you’re standing or sitting, your arm exerts a downward force on the shoulder joint. This force helps keep the joint’s components lined up. But when you lie down that force shifts. Your joint is being tugged in a different direction – typically toward your back. The change in force puts strain on your joint, and that can cause a lot of discomfort.
If you lie on your side, your shoulder joint gets compressed. The added pressure ends up irritating the joint and worsening inflammation. Switching sides can sometimes help. But even then, your shoulder may drift downward while you sleep, leaving you with plenty of pain in the morning.
And finally, when you’re sleeping your body is still. Lying immobile for hours on end can make any joint sore. And if your shoulder is already irritated, it’s easy to see how holding it still for a long time could make your symptoms worse.
What can I do to prevent shoulder injuries and pain?
One of the best ways to prevent shoulder pain is to exercise it on a regular basis. The good thing about most shoulder pain exercises is that they can be done just about anywhere, without any special equipment. If you want to avoid the inevitable shoulder surgery, here are three exercises to try today.
If you have shoulder pain when you lift your arm, you might have a strained rotator cuff. The rotator cuff includes muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder socket and provide stability. The arm reach exercise helps relieve inflammation while also strengthening the rotator cuff. To do this exercise, lie flat on your back on a firm surface like the floor. Pull in your abdominal muscles and reach one arm toward the ceiling, stretching up until the shoulder blade comes off the floor. Hold the position for a count of five, then slowly lower your arm. Repeat the exercise with the other arm.
Pretend you’re a clock
OK, actually this one is called the pendulum exercise, and it’s pretty simple. Bending from your waist, support one arm on the back of a chair and let the other arm hang free. Slowly swing your arm back and forth, then in a circular pattern. Switch sides and repeat with your other arm.
Shoulder blade stretch
This shoulder blade exercise can help stabilize your scapula, one of the bones that makes up the shoulder joint. Start by lying on the floor on your belly. Slide a soft pillow under your belly to support your core and rest your forehead on the floor. Now bend your elbows at a right angle and rest your forearms on the floor. Keeping your forehead on the floor, lift your forearms off the floor. Hold the position for five to 10 seconds. Return to your starting position and repeat the exercise 10 times if you can.
Squeeze and release
Hold a towel behind your back and grasp the ends in both hands. Focusing on your shoulders, bring your shoulder blades toward each other while lifting your chin. Hold the “squeeze” for about 10 seconds, then release. Remember to breathe normally throughout. Repeat the exercise three to five times.
Don’t Ignore your Shoulder Pain
Of course, shoulder pain can’t always be prevented. If you wind up developing pain, getting medical treatment is the best way to keep it from getting worse. As a top orthopedic physician in Rockford, Dr. Geoffrey Van Thiel uses state-of-the-art techniques to diagnose and treat shoulder pain to help you feel better fast. If you have shoulder pain or if you’re prone to shoulder problems, an evaluation with Dr. Van Thiel can help prevent your symptoms from getting worse. To schedule your shoulder evaluation, contact the office of Dr. Van Thiel today.