Healing Chronic Shoulder Pain

As we get older, years and decades of mechanical stress may lead to deterioration of joints, ligaments, and tendons. This degenerative process, commonly known as arthritis, primarily affects weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees and those found in the lumbar spine. The shoulder, too, is especially prone to undergo arthritic changes owing to its extreme mobility. The extensive range of motion at the shoulder is built-in to the design of this structure, but the tradeoff is instability. The design of the shoulder sacrifices stability for mobility.
Degenerative disorders of the shoulder typically involve the rotator cuff. This broad, flat structure is composed of the muscle-tendon units of the four rotator cuff muscles: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor. The thick covering of the rotator cuff surrounds the head of the arm bone and supports and strengthens the shoulder joint. But owing to the shoulder's inherent instability contrasted with its great mobility, the soft tissues of the rotator cuff undergo repetitive stress and strain. Ultimately, degenerative changes may occur, leading to the two prominent symptoms of pain and restricted range of motion.
An entire orthopedic sub-specialty focuses on treatment of chronic shoulder pain and includes long-term use of anti-inflammatory medication, corticosteroid injections when medications do not provide sufficient relief, and eventually surgery to repair tears in the various rotator cuff tendons. "Revision" surgery is commonly performed when the benefits of prior surgery are exhausted.1
The good news is that in many cases, a more optimal approach is available, one that utilizes the body's own natural recuperative powers. For many people, chronic shoulder pain can be reduced and chronic loss of mobility can be improved by engaging in specific activities and performing specific rehabilitative exercises. The goals of rehabilitation are to increase shoulder range of motion and build up shoulder strength. As these goals are accomplished, the likely result is reduction of intensity and frequency of occurrence of shoulder pain.
Engaging in an overall strength training program is an important general approach to managing chronic shoulder pain.2,3 Strength training should be done progressively, starting with light weights and building up over time. Exercises specific to the shoulder include seated dumbbell or barbell presses, dumbbell or cable lateral raises, seated bent-over rows, and internal and external rotation exercises done with very light dumbbells on a flat bench. If one has experienced an acute shoulder injury, early rehabilitation should precede rehabilitative strength training. Early rehabilitation includes pendulum exercises and finger-walking up a wall in both forward-facing and side positions.
Your chiropractor is experienced in injury rehabilitation and will be able to help you design an effective flexibility and strengthening program for improved shoulder function.
1Keener JD: Revision rotator cuff repair. Clin Sports Med 31(4):713-725, 2012
2Lewis JS: A specific exercise program for patients with subacromial impingement syndrome can improve function and reduce the need for surgery. J Physiother 58(2):127, 2012
3Andersen LL, et al: Effectiveness of small daily amounts of progressive resistance training for frequent neck/shoulder pain: randomised controlled trial. Pain 152(2):440-446, 2011

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"I struggled with back pain for 4 years prior to seeking help for my Scoliosis. I decided after visiting Dr. Breidenbach that it was worth the financial commitment and time dedication to go through the CLEAR scoliosis treatment. My pain throughout the 4 years was more of an extreme discomfort and occasional immobilization from immense pain spikes. My biggest problems occurred when I was on my feet for long periods of time, sitting for too long, and any type of consecutive lifting. It was emotionally draining because no matter what stretches, exercises or methods I tried, nothing seemed to work.
My pain level now, after completing the 4 month treatment program and continuing my at-home protocol, is extremely low and very manageable. The only time I experience discomfort is after very long days on my feet, which still only results in minor soreness. I am so much happier and less stressed about everyday activities, and can do so much more than before. My Cobb angle also improved from 13.8 degrees down to 4 degrees (71% improvement).
I would suggest the CLEAR scoliosis Center of La Crosse to anyone that experiences pain and dysfunction with scoliosis. The whole staff was extremely kind and supportive, while also maintaining a high level of professionalism. I am so happy to have a normal life without the constant annoyance and discomfort of pain from scoliosis.

Megan