Save Your Shoulders

I encounter many clients and swimmers with shoulder problems. In many cases, the pain can be resolved simply by icing and reducing activity for a period of time and then following up with exercises that facilitate proper alignment and movement in the shoulder girdle. Consult with a physical therapist if you are unsure how to rehabilitate a shoulder injry. If your shoulders are in good shape or have been recently rehabilitated, you can keep them that way by practicing a few safety tips:

1) Never carry a purse or backpack over one shoulder. This puts undue stress on the tissues around the shoulder girdle. Carry the purse or bag over both shoulders or in the hand. Even better, remove some items you don’t absolutely need to carry around with you.

2) When walking your dog, hold the leash in the hand opposite of the side where your dog is walking. When your dog stops suddenly, your shoulder will internally rotate and be more “anchored” than it will be if you are holding the leash with the opposite hand where the tug may pull your elbow and shoulder away from your trunk and hurt your shoulder.

3) Never yank an item from the back seat of the car. This jerky and unsupported movement places a tremendous amount of stress on the shoulders.

4) Stretch the pectoral muscles after you spend time in front of the computer to restore balance in your posture. When you are hunched over, muscles and connective tissue is unable to move properly without “collisions.”

5) When picking up objects, try to get “underneath” them by using a step stool or ladder and use both arms. More stress is placed on the shoulder when you lift a heavy object that is above shoulder height. In general, avoid “heaving” objects such as suitcases. Ask for help or have someone assist you when getting a bag off of a carousel. Sudden jerky movements are most likely to tear tissues.

6) Be aware of anything causing aggravation and try to avoid or modify it. For example, if you are a swimmer who also plays tennis and racquetball, you may want to cut back on one or two of those sports and pursue an activity such as running or biking that is more lower body dominant to avoid putting so much stress on your shoulders.

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2 Responses

  1. Jennifer J. says:

    So true! I injured my shoulder reaching back for the sunshade in the backseat of my car, and lifting some weights at the gym with incorrect form. It progressed to become a frozen shoulder. I’m now without pain, but it still doesn’t have full range of motion, and sadly, maybe never will.

    You had better believe I’m careful with the other shoulder now, because I’m at high risk to repeat the injury. Stretching before a workout (love the Personal Best Stretch DVD you made) helps!

    Thanks for your blog. I enjoy reading it.

  2. Susan Dawson-Cook says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Jennifer. Too bad sometimes it takes an injury to learn what not to do again. Hopefully our stories will help other readers avoid making similar mistakes.

    I’m glad you enjoy the DVD. And the blog. Now if I could just post a little more frequently…(I have two articles imminently due right now, though).

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