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Easy fixes for aching shoulders

Stretching and strengthening your shoulders can help you prevent pain and avoid surgery.

If you have shoulder pain, you’re likely to go easy on the joint. But stopping normal activities can make shoulder problems worse. “The muscles and ligaments can start to shorten, your shoulder won’t work properly, and you can have more pain,” says Alex Petruska, a senior physical therapist at the Sports Medicine Center of Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Common pain

Your shoulder is made up of the collarbone, upper arm bone, and shoulder blade. Gradual wear and tear on this joint makes older adults vulnerable to arthritis as well as problems with the rotator cuff—the group of tendons that helps you raise and rotate your arm.

Overuse of the joint can lead to inflammation called tendinitis, as well as small tears in the rotator cuff. Inflammation may also occur in the bursa, a small cushion that reduces friction between tendons and bones. “Overuse can be as simple as doing things around the house, like hanging curtains,” says Petruska. Shoulder pain can also result from whiplash in a car accident, or spine problems that affect the nerves near the neck.

The fix

Don’t assume that your doctor will recommend surgery for shoulder pain. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that 90% of people with shoulder pain respond to simple treatments such as rest and physical therapy. Petruska agrees. “I have a fairly high success rate of helping to improve people’s shoulder function so they can avoid surgery,” he says.

Physical therapy will focus on three goals: increasing your range of motion, strengthening the shoulder muscles, and stretching the muscles and ligaments to keep them supple. Petruska suggests the following exercises, with the supervision of a physical therapist, to get back use of your shoulder and reduce pain.

Overhead stretch

  • How it helps: Keeps shoulder muscles and tendons flexible.

  • How to do it: Lie on your back and hold a small towel with both hands, shoulder-width apart. Start with your arms down in front of you, then raise both arms to the ceiling, elbows straight, then lower them backward behind your head (if you were standing, it would look like you were raising your arms above your head), and return your arms to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.

Move of the month: shoulder stretch

Stretching your shoulder will keep the muscles and ligaments supple. This will help you ward off shoulder problems, enabling you to reach up to a cabinet or out
to a table.

Cross one arm across your body, then pull the elbow of your outstretched arm toward your chest. Hold the stretch for ten seconds. Release, and repeat on the
other arm.

Photo: Thinkstock

Wall climb

  • How it helps: Stretches shoulder muscles and tendons to keep them flexible.

  • How to do it: Stand facing the wall. Place both hands on the wall, then slide your hands up the wall at the same time. As you’re sliding, move closer to the wall and reach up as high as you can. Hold that stretch for 10 seconds, then slowly lower your arms and step back. Repeat 10 times.

Behind the back

  • How it helps: Increases the shoulder’s range of motion.

  • How to do it: Place your left hand behind your back, with the back of your hand on your waist or belt. Using your right hand, reach back around your waist and pull on your left hand, lifting it up toward your right armpit. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times, then switch sides and repeat another 10 times.

Side-lying rotation

  • How it helps: Strengthens the shoulder muscles.

  • How to do it: Lie on your right side and bend your left arm at a 90-degree angle, keeping your elbow against your waist, with your hand pointing forward. Make a fist, then raise it toward the ceiling, still keeping your elbow against your side. Hold for two seconds, then lower slowly and repeat. Do 10 repetitions, then switch sides and repeat.

Shoulder extension

  • How it helps: Strengthens the muscles that control the shoulder blade.

  • How to do it: Stand with your back against a wall and your arms at your sides. Press your arms against the wall, keeping your elbows straight. Hold for five seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times.?

Posted by: Dr.Health

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