THE SHOULDER GUIDE
Your shoulders are incredibly flexible joints that allow your arms to move through a large range of motion. They are used in almost every activity and they take a lot of punishment on a daily basis. Think for a moment of all the activities you do that utilize your shoulders - even things you do without thinking about it like lifting toddlers, opening doors, reaching for an item off the top shelf, playing golf, throwing a ball, weed whacking, etc. You get the idea. As a result, shoulders are prone to a wide range of injuries. It's important to take good care of your shoulders because even small problems can quickly become debilitating if not taken care of immediately.
The shoulder is prone to a variety of problems that can give you pain and limit your range of motion. Many of these are caused simply by wear and tear. For example, a common injury is tendinitis of one of the rotator cuff muscles called the supraspinatus. Through poor posture or overuse, the tendon becomes inflamed and painful. When the bursa (a fluid sac that cushions the joint) becomes inflamed, you develop what is known as bursitis. This can be extremely painful (ask Sharyl).
Trigger points, small knots in the muscles, are very common around the shoulder and can refer pain and tenderness into the muscles or joints. The referred pain cam mimic other shoulder problems like tendinitis and frozen shoulder.
Sprains and dislocations typically result from falls. It's natural to reach your arm out to catch yourself when falling, but the impact can strain or tear the shoulder ligaments. If the impact is severe enough, the humerus may be knocked right out of the socket and the shoulder becomes dislocated. OUCH!
With severe trauma, the bones may actually fracture or break. The collarbone is most likely to break, although the humerus can sometimes break as well. When this happens, the arm needs to be immobilized. Fractures can take up to three months to heal.
Whenever you have a shoulder problem, you tend to limit your movement to minimize the pain. This can lead to a frozen shoulder. Your shoulder becomes stiff and you quickly lose mobility. It can soon become extremely painful to lift your arm. If you develop a frozen shoulder, it will take a long time and lots of therapy to regain your normal movement. Sometimes surgery is the only option. The best medicine in this case is prevention. As soon as you develop any pain or discomfort in your shoulder, see your massage therapist immediately for assessment and treatment. Don't risk getting this serious and debilitating shoulder condition.
A QUICK ANATOMY LESSON
The shoulder is made up of three bones. The humerus is the big bone in your upper arm. The clavicle (collar bone) attaches to your rib cage at one end and helps keep your shoulders out to the side of your body. The scapula (shoulder blade) is the third bone. Part of the scapula, the acromion, juts out and forms a roof over the top of the joint. Another part of the scapula forms a socket into which the round head of the humerus fits.
The upper arm is held in its socket by loose ligaments and four small rotator cuff muscles that cover the joint like a sleeve. Other back, chest, and upper arm muscles help support and move the shoulder.
There is also a fluid-filled sac in the shoulder called a bursa. This bursa is like a cushion that helps prevent the tendons from rubbing against the bones. The shoulder design is a true masterpiece!