If your shoulders aren’t what they used to, you aren’t alone. Shoulder issues creep up over time, and over time more issues accumulate, that’s why it seems like ‘just overnight’ you can’t do something, or “all-of-a-sudden” you’ve got pain.
The Problem Behind Shoulder Issues
The shoulder joint (like the hip) is a ball and socket joint which means it has the most range of motion in your body compared to other types of joints. This mobility is great and allows you to do all sorts of things from throwing a ball, putting groceries away, opening doors, etc. However, it does come at a cost: less stability.
Add to that fact you have 4 joints that work to form the shoulder complex/girdle, comprising 4 tendons and 17 different muscles. Some of those joints get stiff and tight over the years, others get loose and worn down. Of those 17 muscles that attach to your shoulder blade, some get tight, others loose, others seem like they go on permanent vacation, others just aren’t ever used. The shoulder complex is an intricate piece of machinery that needs to be swiss-watch precise. Once little things stop working smoothly, it causes a cascading effect of pain and dysfunction.
In truth, most shoulder issues have underlying, under the surface issues. Similar to when you rub/drag a rope across a sharp edge, it begins to fray. It isn’t until the rope fails and breaks that we do something about it. The problem is that we usually fix the rope and then go back to fraying the rope.
Outside of sudden trauma/accident almost ALL shoulder injuries and pain have the same root cause. Whether it’s frozen shoulder, rotator cuff tear, tendinitis, or poor posture, the root cause is the same. And unless you address the root cause EVERYTHING else you do (surgery, physical therapy, rest, whatever) will be less effective.
I’ve heard it explained this way. There are 2 employees. One is a go-getter and hard worker. The other is lazy, ineffective, drain on the company. Which of the 2 employees do you think will complain to management first? The first one-because he’s picking up all the slack and doing all the work. What will happen if you give employee #1 in this example a week off from work? They’ll love it, right? But what about when we gets back to work. Putting him/her back into that dysfunctional environment will bring up the same issues.
This is exactly what we do when we have something injured or in pain. We baby it, we give it some tender, loving care and then put it right back into the same dysfunctional environment that led to the problem in the first place. And then we act surprised that that same ‘nagging injury’ keeps acting up!
The Solution to Shoulder Issues
Years ago, I met a shoulder orthopedic surgeon in Colorado who quit doing surgeries because training and exercise were having better outcomes. He said, “90% of all shoulder pathologies can be fixed with proper scapular control and rhythm.” In layman’s terms, fixing the ability of the shoulder blade to move correctly and in the right time, will fix 90% of all shoulder problems.
It sounds simple, because it is. Don’t mistake a simple solution to be easy though. Retraining your scapulas will take work and time. Much of the challenge we see with clients is recreating the mind-muscle connection, or feeling what should be moving vs not moving.