As a massage therapist, I’ve seen my fair share of clients with shoulder pain and injuries. This article will review what causes shoulder pain, the massage therapy treatment that will help, as well as simple exercises you can do yourself.
Shoulder pain can be caused by a wide variety of things such as sports injury, repetitive strain, motor vehicle accidents, and in some cases the cause is unknown. Sometimes the pain can come on suddenly, and others it has a gradual onset. Even if the pain came on suddenly, in most cases, the problem may have started a while ago.
The massage therapy treatment will differ slightly depending on how the pain started, so make sure you try and explain to your RMT exactly what you are feeling in your shoulder, how long it’s been there, and how it started. This will help your massage therapist determine not only what structures might be injured, but also what the root cause of your shoulder pain is, which in most cases is bad shoulder posture.
Shoulder posture, the key to all injuries
Being slumped over a desk, working at a computer, and starring at a monitor for 8 hours a day is how most Torontonians spend their weekdays. That is 40 hours sitting with your shoulders and head slumped forward, and your arm reaching for the mouse so thousands of daily clicks can be performed. CRAZY! It’s no wonder I have so many client suffering with shoulder injuries, and pain.
Remember your mother telling you that if you make that funny face again, you might get stuck that way? Well she may have been wrong about the face thing, but if you repeatedly place your body in a certain position it will definitely stay that way. Muscles will adaptively shorten, or lengthen, and the fascia, the connective covering around the muscles and body, (Think saran wrap) will tighten around the new altered posture, making sure you stay that way.
In the case of slumped shoulders, the Pectoralis major and minor (Muscles of your chest) become very tight and short. This pulls your shoulders forward and upwards causing your upper shoulders and neck to get very tight as well. In contrast, the muscles of the upper back and around the shoulder blades, become very weak and overstretched, so even if you wanted to stand up straight your muscles are no longer strong enough to fight against the super tight pecs.
In this slumped position, the ligaments and capsule of the shoulder are lax, and no longer stabilize the shoulder joint like they should. This will predispose the shoulder to injury, because it is no longer as stable. On top of that, it will also cause the muscles that cross the shoulder joint to work overtime because they want to try and re-stabilize the shoulder. This will lead to chronic tension and pain the muscles of the shoulder.
Not only does this position cause tight muscles and lax ligaments, but it also alters the normal movement between the bones of the joint, we call it altered joint biomechanics. This altered biomechanics will cause the arm bone ( humerus) to squish the tendons that attach around the shoulder. So every time the arm is moved, the tendons get squished. OUCH!! Overtime these tendons get very irritated and inflamed, leading to tendonitis, or worse, a tear in the tendon.
Now if you suffer from shoulder pain you may have noticed that the pain can come and go, sometimes it’s better and sometimes it’s worse. This is because our body has an amazing way to repair itself, and injuries will heal. Unfortunately if the root cause, (slumped posture) is not rectified the injury and pain will re-occur… and this is where MASSAGE THERAPY STEPS IN!
Massage therapy for shoulder pain focuses not only on decreasing the pain, and speeding up the healing process, but also fixing posture, the root cause of the injury. At Myocare, our RMT’s at our downtown Toronto location have specialized in shoulder treatments. These treatments begin by massaging all the muscles of the shoulder. This helps decrease the chronic tension and knots in the muscles, eliminating pain related to the musculature. We then proceed to releasing very specific muscles, such as the Pectoralis major and minor, as well as muscles of the neck, and the biceps. By releasing and re-lengthening these muscles, the shoulder joint, and blade are able to fall back to their normal resting position.
In this position, the biomechanics of the joint return to normal, allowing the tissue to heal, and before you know it, the shoulder pain is gone!!
Once the pain is gone, this means the acute swelling has decreased, and the tissues are healing nicely. In order to make sure they heal nice and strong, our RMT’s will give you some very specific strengthening exercises. These exercises will re-strengthen the injured tissue, as well as fix your posture, so you’re shoulder pain doesn’t return.
How you can help yourself
On top of picking up your phone and booking yourself a massage with any of our RMT’s you can also do some simple exercises that will help with your posture. One simple exercise is called the 5 point stance. This exercise helps re-educate your brain on what prefect posture is, as well as stretches and strengthens some of your muscles. As you’ve probably guessed this exercise have 5 simple steps.
1. Stand against a flat wall with your feet hip width apart, about a foot away from the wall.
2. Tuck your tail bone in, like if you had a long tail and you were trying to put is between your legs
3. Flatten your shoulder blades so they are flat against the wall. (Or as close as possible)
4. Pull your finger tips towards the floor.
5. Tuck your chin in, like you’re trying to make a double chin, flatten the back of your head against the wall, and pretend a rope, tied to the ceiling is pulling the very top of your head upwards.
Now hold this position for 15 seconds, and repeat it 3 times. Do these exercise minimum 1 x per day, and within a few weeks you should see an improvement in your posture.