Racquet sports have been increasing in popularity in recent years! They demand a high level of motor control through high volumes of complex shoulder mechanics. This often leads to players presenting to the clinic with shoulder pain, frequently on the outside of their shoulder. Patients often complain of being unable to put on a coat or reach for their seat belt. These two movements mimic an orthopedic test we use in the clinic called Apley’s Scratch Test. Being able to connect a patient’s experiences with our clinical findings gives us confidence in our diagnosis.
When dealing with shoulder pain, we like to start with some soft tissue work on the scapular stabilizers and rotator cuff muscles. Stand with your back near a wall, and place a tennis ball or other soft rubber ball in the area between your shoulder blades. Lean toward the wall to trap the ball against your back, just to the side of your spine. Roll the ball up and down each side of your spine by bending your knees to lower and raise your torso with a gentle pressure.
After doing some gentle soft tissue work, we like to move on to our stretches. Start by putting one hand on the small of your back. Then begin tilting your head to the opposite side of the arm behind your back, and use the same side’s arm to grab behind your ear and pull your head towards your shoulder. You should feel a firm put tolerable stretch that you hold for 10-15 seconds. Then slowly move your chin towards your chest while maintaining your tilted head position. Hold for another 10-15 seconds.
Now that your shoulders and upper back are thoroughly warmed up, we want to move onto an exercise that challenges those muscles. An easy shoulder exercise you can do anywhere is a palm press. Place your palms together in front of you with your fingers aligned. Firmly press your palms together, putting pressure through all of your palm and fingers. You should feel a strong contraction in your shoulder muscles. Try moving your hand to point your fingers back towards your body, then again away from your body. Try starting with 10 second presses and increasing as your shoulders can tolerate.
If your shoulder pain persists after trying our at-home recommendations, we have a variety of treatments we can use to help. Chiropractic adjustments and myofascial release techniques both can be helpful with shoulder pain. One of the techniques we have the most success with in shoulder pain cases is dry needling. Dry Needling that involves inserting very thin monofilament needles directly into sore/tender areas in order to help relieve pain and improve range of motion. If patients are failing to progress through our treatment protocol, a common next step we utilize in office is imaging. While x-rays can be useful, MRIs are often the better option when assessing the shoulder and the type of imaging we prefer to order in these scenarios.
Hopefully these tips help you navigate your shoulder pain!
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