There is an epidemic of shoulder pain among office workers the world over. The fact that a life spent sitting at a desk performing physically repetitive and sometimes stressful tasks predisposes human beings to shoulder pain is perhaps not the most shocking news.
Many of us choose to muddle along and put up with our shoulder pain, perhaps getting an occasional massage. For others fixing our shoulder pain for whatever reason is a top priority. The hallmark of someone who is really ready to get rid of their shoulder pain is usually just them being completely fed up with a nagging persistent pain. The great thing about being fed up with your shoulder pain is that it gives you the necessary determination to act consistently in executing the tasks required to correct an underlying problem.
So now that you have achieved the necessary level of frustration (congrats) to make some genuine effort to resolve your pain…. what are some tools that might actually work?
A little known fact about that majority (nearly all) shoulder pains and even shoulder injuries is that they are caused largely by posture. If your posture is in a consistently good and healthy state your shoulder alignment is correct and you have healthy muscles tone through the shoulder girdle. If your posture is not so great you will have some combination of mis-alignment in the shoulder and weakness in the shoulder girdle.
Living with misalignment in the shoulder girdle tends to cause impingement in the tendons in the shoulder, this predisposes you to shoulder pain and shoulder injuries.
Living with weakness in the upper back and shoulder girdles means that a major part of the shoulders physical ‘support network’ is not functioning correctly. This is a recipe of shoulder pain as without muscle support the shoulder become ‘unstable’. Shoulders that are unstable tend to be far more pain and injury prone than those that are strong and well supported.
2. Learn to Work Out Properly
Exercising regularly is obviously one of the best things we can do for our bodies and the shoulders not exempt from that rule. The requirement that shoulders have for exercise is massively increased by office work. The stock standard sitting posture ‘inhibits’ muscle activity in the back of the shoulder girdle.
Now, as you may have heard the road to hell is comprehensively paved with good intentions. What this classic phrase points to is how we can intend to do the right things, yet despite our good intentions find that our methodology actually does harm. This truth has never been more applicable to any area of endeavour than it is to the topic of shoulder issues and gym exercises. The reason I say this is that a truly massive number of gym routines worsen shoulder issues in those who perform them. The reason for this is a very simple and basic lack of understanding of the basics, basics that I confess that I only learned myself very late in my own career.
If you are willing to learn the basics of how to train your shoulders properly; without injury and with correct targeting of your postural and shoulder weaknesses you will be able to use the gym as a place of healing for your shoulder pain. Be advised though that this is specialised knowledge that your PT can be forgiven for not being able to provide for you. It wasn’t until many years after my PT career that I became aware of the full extent of the risks in the way I had been taught to train shoulders.
3. Alexander Technique
Learning to move more efficiently and in a way that is more connected to our natural state is a powerful way to influence many of life’s stubborn pains.
Much of the pain we suffer with relates to persistent and often unhappy patterns of movement and posture that we developed at a young age. You only need to look at the posture of the average adolescent to see what I am referring to. As adults most of us only make a partial recovery from the worst of our teenage posture habits.
Systems like Alexander Technique & Feldenkrais sit in a cultural blind spot between straight forward ‘conditioning’ exercises and pain relieving body work (like massage & acupuncture). These systems are extremely sophisticated means of unlearning the movement patterns that perpetuate our pain. This way of looking at things see’s pain more as a behaviour than something that ‘happens to us’, which is a pretty powerful frame of reference!!
Feldenkrais and Alexander Technique classes basically involve subtle movements in series that unravel the way we hold stress and bad habits in our bodies. If you do go down this path be willing to work consistently over time. Habit is one of the most powerful forces in the known universe!!!!
I believe we all have an innate desire to feel good and to be in absolutely the healthiest state we can be in. I say this knowing that we don’t always act in accordance with those kind of values. That doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t harbour them at a deeper level within us. Do you know anyone who you believe really feels good about being overweight for example?
I don’t believe that anyone really wants to live with shoulder pain or poor posture any more than they want to live with excess body mass. The good news is that there is every reason so believe that they don’t have to put up with it. There are many many useful and effective methods and perspectives that have bought relief to countless individuals who have suffered with shoulder pain. Getting access to those methods that will work for you may take time and it may take some trial and error. If you can find answers like so many others before you it will be well worth the effort: