Shoulder pain and how to give it the elbow

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“I have had a sore shoulder for around three months now,” a female friend in her mid forties said the other day. “It’s a dull ache most of the time but occasionally I do something which sends an agonising pain through my entire shoulder. It can be a simple thing like opening a door or lifting something awkwardly.”

It’s amazing just how much we use our shoulders and how debilitating an injury in that area can be. Just the simple action of lifting your arms over your head or removing a jacket can cause a surge of pain in your shoulder area and if this situation continues untreated, it can be really depressing.

Shoulder pain is common for women in their 50s

Shoulder pain and shoulder weakness is a prevalent condition in women as they hit middle age. There is still very little knowledge in the medical world as to why this should be, but the evidence is clear – many, many women between 40 and 60 years suffer from some form of shoulder pain.

Frozen shoulder

One of the most common ailments is ‘frozen shoulder’. This is caused by the joint suddenly becoming inflamed and, although the initial trigger for the inflammation is still unknown, the symptoms – restricted mobility, constant dull ache interspersed with sharp pain – are all too familiar for many people.

The good news is that many issues with the shoulder can be relieved by exercise and the more exercise you do, the better it is for the shoulder. The one caveat to this is that the exercises have to be suitable to deal with the injury and they must be done properly. To that end, I would stress that you must seek the advice of a well-qualified and up-to-date physiotherapist.

Seek professional advice

A qualified physiotherapist will be able to show you the most appropriate exercises and staff at the Kelsey Kerridge Outlooks gym will be able to keep you on track and make sure you continue to do these exercises so that you make a recovery.

Firstly, it is important that you understand your shoulder and its mechanics. The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint (with the ‘ball’ at the end of the upper arm bone fitting into the round ‘socket’ of the shoulder blade) encased in a layer of strong ligaments — tough bands of tissue — called the shoulder capsule.

Frozen shoulder occurs when the capsule becomes thickened and inflamed. This causes the space inside to shrink, restricting movement in the joint and causing pain. This capsule also contains lubricating fluid to enable bones in the joint to slide smoothly over each other. In frozen shoulder, the amount of lubricating fluid reduces by up to a third, which further restricts mobility and increases pain.

With that knowledge, you can start to build exercises into your daily programme which will help to increase and recover mobility and strength within your shoulder.

Here are two simple exercises to kick-start your recovery.

Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart, a light weight in each hand. Slowly raise your arms until you make a ’t’-shape, hold for a breath and then slowly lower. At the point you feel pain stop raising your arm and if the movement is too much, use a lighter weight. Repeat this 10-12 times and try to do at least three sets a day.

Lie on your side on the floor. Hold a light weight in your hand, with your arm raised straight up to the sky. Now slowly lower your arm in front of you (at a right-angle to your body). Don’t quite tough the floor, hold for one breath and then slowly raise it back up, keeping your arm straight at all times. Imagine your shoulder blade gliding over the socket, rather than making any ‘jerky’ movements. Repeat 10 times and try to do at least three sets. To ensure you remain balanced, do the exercises on both sides of your body, not just the injured shoulder.

Shoulder repair takes time, so keep these exercises going until you are completely free of any pain in the shoulder. The good news is that frozen shoulder rarely returns, particularly if you continue to do a range of shoulder strengthening and mobility exercises.