Improving Your Shoulder Pain Solutions

Tips For One Of The Most Frustrating Injuries

There may be no chronic pain more frustrating than nagging, hard to pin point shoulder pain. Much of the frustration stems from the fact that shoulder pain itself is poorly managed in most cases.  “Take this anti-inflammatory and pain med." "Get this shot." " Let’s dig a variety of body parts into the most tender spots for an hour and send you home.”

These are just a few attempts at “fixes” I often see.  However, in the defense for the aforementioned approaches, they have simply made themselves available due to the demand of quick and easy fixes by those afflicted with shoulder pain, but the difficult reality is, your shoulder is not the problem.  Should you choose to take the approach of cortisone shots, medication, and casual massage for shoulder pain, prepare yourself for a frustrating rabbit hole of dead ends and exacerbations.

First, on the topic of tight shoulders, rarely is the fix going to involve increasing the motion of the glenohumeral joint (the shoulder ball and socket joint) itself, which includes stretching muscles around the shoulder like Lats and traps.  The exception being the pecs as these often need to be lengthened and maintained with proper postural work.  A much more common area of the body to focus your mobility efforts would be in the mid-back, a.k.a. thoracic spine.  Due to poor breathing patterns and the western culture’s comically convenient lifestyle (*cough* horizontal escalators *cough* hoverboards *cough* segways *cough*) which robs the human system of even the slightest amount of movement on a daily basis, it’s safe to say the majority of us lack thoracic spine extension and rotation.  By ignoring the mobility in this important segment, and simply cranking on the shoulders to get yourself into an overhead position, you are creating an unfortunate recipe for labrum and rotator cuff tears.

And now for the catch.  Shoulder stiffness is likely much less of a mobility issue and more of a control/stability issue.  Meaning, your brain will call upon certain muscles to lock down full motion of the shoulder joint if you don’t have adequate stability mechanisms or quality movement patterns to support the large amount of motion.  If you had it your way, and you regained full mobility overnight, you would be injured by the time your head hit the pillow the following night.

Therefore, it’s much more important to focus on quality day-to-day pushing, pulling, and carrying mechanics as well as implementing some quality stability habits. This is not a shallow topic which can be resolved by a simple tip or two because everyone has different compensations that are contributing to the pain.  But for starters pay attention to your daily movement.  If you initiate your motion by shrugging the shoulder, it’s a good indication that you need activation of the lat (through some hanging exercises maybe) and release of the pecs.  If you have a shoulder blade that sticks off the torso when you are pushing or pulling, you need quality control exercises like the kettlebell arm bar. 

The most important key is that you don’t let shoulder pain go left untreated or try and “live with the pain” for too long.  Once a shoulder accumulates to much damage, the road to recovery is long and frustrating and complete resolution becomes less likely.  Learn what patterns need fixing by getting assessed!  After all, we can’t fix something if we don’t know what’s broke!

Move well.  Move often.  And as always, don't just mend. Transcend!

For more information on Chiropractic treatment, education on Body Maintenance techniques, or coaching for sustainable exercise programs visit or call the office 931-321-1414 to schedule your FREE consultation with Dr. Dunaway.