When it comes to being healthy and strong for life, not much is as important as mobility. How well you move will determine your quality of life as you age. Your mobility will determine whether you’ll need assistance walking and getting around town or if you’ll have a more independent and active lifestyle. One of the most common injuries that comes with age is the shoulder causing pain when trying to lift the arms overhead. Most of the time, shoulder pain is related to poor posture. Thankfully, there’s a lot we can do to improve our posture and in-turn improve our overall health and mobility.
Preventing Shoulder Pain By Improving Posture
The key to good posture is not putting strain on muscles whether you’re sitting, standing, or sleeping. This allows our muscles to function with maximum efficiency. Having poor posture puts more strain on muscles, bones and ligaments which causes injury and pain. Over time, muscles and soft tissues adapt by shortening or lengthening which creates imbalances that can cause more pain, joint stiffness and fatigue.
Daily Moves to Prevent Neck and Shoulder Pain
– Keep moving throughout the day – stand up and walk around. If you sit a lot for work, have regular breaks to stand up and stretch.
– Change positions when sitting and standing; adjust your chair if needed. Switch sides when carrying a bag on your shoulder or a baby on your hip.
– Think tall – good posture is key for a healthy back, neck and shoulders.
– Find a pillow to achieve a neutral neck position while sleeping and try not to sleep on your stomach.
– Use tools to keep you healthy at the office such as ergonomic keyboards, supportive chairs and headsets.
– Exercise your whole body to improve muscle and joint strength. Swimming and walking are great options or for more of a challenge try different variations of yoga or Pilates.
Treating Shoulder Pain
If you’re experiencing shoulder pain despite efforts of prevention, the first step is to see a physical therapist. Physical therapists are specialized in movement and experts in anatomy. A doctor can give you a shoulder exam – but context for these is important. Doctors with different specialties could come up with different diagnosis, so share as much information as you can about your mobility before, after, and what’s normal for you. If a pain is not familiar to you, there could be a mechanical issue. It’s important to try not to move through the pain just in case there could be a serious injury.
A lot of the time, shoulder pain is associated with the neck and back. Forward head posture, where the neck is curved forward or the shoulders are rounded or hunched forward, is a common cause. Throughout adult life it’s prone to happen simply because of all the occupations that involve prolonged sitting, standing and driving. In reality, the pain might not actually be coming from the shoulder. Pain in the deltoid area can be coming from the rotator cuff or neck. Pain behind the shoulder is typically a neck issue such as a disc obstruction or a pinched nerve. This connection is why exercising the back is just as important as exercising the shoulders.
The Best Shoulder Exercises
In daily life we move our shoulders much more in the front than we do in the back. In addition to work habits and hobbies pulling our shoulders forward, workouts are commonly focused on the front of the body. Because of this, working the back muscles is one of the best thing you can do for your shoulders. Especially if you have bad posture, learn how to work the back muscles. They are small, calculated moves that make a big difference. Rotator cuff exercises are also helpful for those experiencing pain lifting their arms overhead.
Rowing machines and exercises will help you strengthen your back and posterior shoulder muscles while improving shoulder mobility. This workout goes a long way to prevent injuries and pain. Rows can be done with bands, ropes, weights, machines, etc. Plus, you can row in 3 different positions:
Low – Toward the hips
Mid – Toward the chest
High – Toward the chin
If you have the strength! Lat pull downs and pull-ups can reduce tension in the chest, neck and shoulders.
No matter what exercise you try, make sure to stretch regularly. Keep weight low until you have mastered the proper form. To prevent injury, you should consistently have proper form. When you do, then it’s ok to push yourself and add more weight or resistance. It’s also important to make sure you’re getting enough rest and proper nutrition.
Keep your joints and tendons healthy with the right foods!
– Eat. Real food. Clean eating, closest to nature is best. Look for Organic, non-GMO foods.
– Decrease Omega-6’s and increase Omega-3’s which are hard to get in a normal diet.
– Turmeric 500mg 3x a day is shown to help osteoarthritis.
– It’s not scientifically proven but try glucosamine or collagen supplements for arthritis if you’ve tried other things that haven’t helped.
– Eat as many above-the-ground veggies as you want for the antioxidants
– Below the ground veggies like potatoes or onions can sometimes be too many carbs for those with metabolic issues.
Live a Pain Free Life
Taking steps every day to improve mobility is the key to living a life that’s healthy and strong for years to come. Shoulder pain can be tough to deal with, but there are many tools, supplements and workouts that can help. It’s important to regularly work on reducing muscle strain and strengthening the back, neck and shoulders. When sitting or standing, make sure your body is in proper alignment. When working out, focus on overall health, losing fat, and mobility rather than boosting performance and lean muscle mass. Remember, taking small actions to improve posture and strengthen back muscles today and everyday will pay off as we age.
This blog is a summary of a podcast on the same topic. Click here to listen to the podcast!