3 possible reasons for your nagging shoulder pain

YOUR shoulder hurts really badly and you are thinking to yourself, “I didn’t fall; I didn’t hit it; I haven’t done anything outside of the ordinary”.

Reaching overhead ends in pain, reaching behind you is even worst. There is one side you just cannot sleep on as it is extremely painful.

For women, you have given up unlocking your bra from behind. You have seen your doctor, done X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and there are no significant findings.

So, what could be wrong with your shoulder? Here are three possible reasons for your nagging shoulder pain:


Stress or tension

As you are sitting in your make-shift home office, racing to meet yet another deadline, you may begin to feel your shoulders creeping towards your ear. You may also feel a strange tension or pull at the back of your neck that often leads to one of your infamous tension headaches. Your massage therapist usually spends extra time addressing your ‘knotty’ shoulders, but now because of COVID-19 you can’t see her.

If you can relate to a few or all of the above scenarios, then you may be carrying stress or tension in your shoulders. When muscles tighten from severe stress, they are part of a primitive physiological reflex that puts the body on guard for danger. This was essential to human survival, as the body would be prepared to defend against an enemy or run to safety.

However, our natural fight or flight response is a less than ideal way to address the stresses of the work world or the new norm. To effectively reduce your shoulder tension, you could see a physiotherapist physically or virtually, a few sessions will help to build body awareness, helping you to better identify your tension points and releasing them.

Also, quite a few physiotherapists are trained in soft tissue manipulation, which is an effective method of relieving muscle tightness caused by stress and tension.


Poor posture

Shoulder pain often develops gradually rather than all at once. As we are stuck at home with nothing much to do, we often find ourselves looking at a screen. You probably sit at a screen all day working, then spend about two hours scrolling through social media at home — all while having a forward neck posture.

Constantly rounding the shoulder or slouching in the couch binge watching your favourite Netflix series isn’t helping your posture either.

Poor posture strongly corelates to shortened, weak muscles, which sets the stage for pain. You can make a few adjustments to help with your posture, such as optimising your workspace so that it is ergonomically friendly. A few tips for sitting correctly are listed below.

•Feet should be planted firmly and flat on the floor or on a stable footrest.

•Thighs should be parallel to the ground.

•Lower back should be supported.

•Elbows should be supported and be close to your body.

•Wrists and hands should be in line with your forearm

•Shoulders should be relaxed.

•Screen should be at eye level.

Additionally, try finding a comfortable position to lie down and watch your favourite shows as opposed to sitting. Try bringing your devices to eye level instead of bending your neck. If you need more help with addressing your posture, Pilates is highly recommended.


Poor functional core strength

When we think of core strength, images of chiselled, six-pack muscles cross our minds, but our core is essentially all the muscles from your torso down to our hip. These muscles are vital for total body power, strength and stabilisation. It’s basically our body’s powerhouse — it’s from our core that our movements were designed to flow.

But most individuals would confess that they have an extremely weak core. How does a weak core affect your shoulders?

Aside from movement, the core muscles are meant to protect the internal organs. If your core muscles cannot effectively do this, your body will call on muscles close by to assist your core, like your shoulders.

Have you ever tried doing core workout and notice just how tense your shoulders get? That’s your shoulders helping out. Outside of that, a functionally weak core can also lead to poor posture, and since we have already expounded on that, you should understand the total picture.

So how can you fix this?

Simple, functional core strengthening exercises, which includes exercises that use your abdominal and back muscles in a coordinated fashion. A physiotherapist can work with you through a programme aimed at correcting functional core weakness and set you on the correct path to improving your strength at home or at the gym, without causing further damage.

Other activities that can improve functional core strength are yoga and Pilates.

Managing your shoulder pain is much easier in the early stages. If you believe you have any of the above symptoms, please seek professional medical advice.

If you do not have shoulder pain, remember, repetitive stress injuries can lead to more serious causes of shoulder pains, such as rotator cuff tears, shoulder impingements, tendonitis, or bursitis.

Kimberly Hoffman is a registered physical therapist at BodyForte Limited. She is also a member of the executive body for the Jamaica Physiotherapy Association.

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