M. Anderson; Physica Physiotherapy; April 2017
Shoulder impingement is a term widely used in the health field however it doesn’t give us a great idea of what is actually causing your shoulder pain. There is also growing evidence to indicate scans of the shoulder have a poor link at actually indicating what structure is causing shoulder pain (so don’t let the results of scan get you down).
There are several areas that should be considered when trying to prevent shoulder impingement. Thoracic mobility is a big one for shoulder elevation (try reaching overhead sitting upright compared to slouched over). If you lack enough thoracic extension, it can limit the ability to fully elevated your arm. Working on thoracic extension is as simple as grabbing a foam roller like the image below.
Your scapula needs to rotate upwards as you lift overhead and if there are any muscle imbalances associated with this movement you can get impingement type symptoms. These imbalances may be the result of muscle tightness or weakness so it’s always important to keep a few simple shoulder stretches within your warm up routine.
(This exercise is great as it gets you into an overhead squatting position! It not only works your shoulder mobility but also your back, hips & knees. You can try shifting both hands to one side to increase the stretch on the opposite shoulder).
Recommendations for muscle weakness are harder as everyone is different so it’s best to catch up with your physio to get a personalised program.
The rotator cuff muscles also need to provide a strong stable base for the shoulder when lifting overhead (shoulder theraband pulls by your waist aren’t going to cut it when lifting dozens of KG overhead). Shoulder strength exercises need to be done in overhead positions. Here’s a quick screengrab of how shoulder exercises can be adapted to be done overhead. Turkish get ups are another exercise to improve overhead strength.
To book in a physio session to further discuss this topic. contact Matthew Anderson at: MATTHEW.A@PHYSICA.COM.AU 03 9870 8193.