The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the body. With so many areas that contribute to the movement at the shoulder it’s common for many causes of shoulder pain to be missed by your doctor, physical therapist, or chiropractor. Treating symptoms without addressing the root causes ensures that your pain will return in a matter of weeks or months.
Most treatments for shoulder pain focus on the injured tissues while ignoring the reasons why the tissue was injured in the first place. By treating the root causes of shoulder pain we can find long lasting solutions, avoid injections and surgery, and maintain our lifestyle as we get older
Five Causes of Shoulder Pain Your Doctor Probably Missed
(And How To Fix)
1. Stiff Mid Back
Shoulder movement is directly linked with your mid back (or thoracic spine) movement. Stiffness in your mid back will lead to a lack of shoulder range of motion. Limitations in shoulder movement lead to increased stress being put on the structures of the shoulder when performing basic movements like pushing, pulling, or reaching. This can get compounded when you start to add weight or return to exercising. Improving mid back mobility is REQUIRED to overcome shoulder pain.
Stiffness in our mid back (right) leads to limited shoulder range of motion which stresses the muscles, tendons, and ligaments fo the shoulder
2. Lack of Core Stability
On the other side of the spectrum, another common cause of shoulder pain occurs when people have too much movement in their shoulder. Being too flexible can lead to an inability to control shoulder movement. This leads to the same stresses on the shoulder joint that cause shoulder pain. For these people, improving core strength and stability can drastically improve outcomes with shoulder treatment. Being strong centrally (your core) improves movement distally (the shoulder). Incorporating a core strengthening routine will help to improve movement to better treat shoulder pain.
Safe and effective core strengthening improves shoulder pain outcomes
3. Lack of Shoulder Blade Control
The shoulder blade is another component of the shoulder complex that often gets ignored. How well does your shoulder blade move over your rib cage? How well can you control this important movement. An inability to move and control your shoulder blade leads to poor movement of the entire shoulder complex and more irritation on muscles and tendons. Overtime this can cause shoulder pain. Scapula Circles is an exercise I include in most shoulder programs to regain motor control of the shoulder blade.
Scapula Circles are a great exercises to regain scapular control for better shoulder movement
4. Muscle Imbalances
For many, their lifestyle can create muscle imbalances that cause shoulder pain. You may have noticed how spending hours in front of the computer can cause your shoulders to roll inward. Even in the gym, overtraining certain muscles groups (like our chest) while ignoring others (like our back muscles). Muscle imbalances in the shoulder, chest, and upper back are most common cause of repeated irritation in structures of the shoulder.
Correcting these imbalances through stretching and strengthening programming is required to overcome shoulder pain.
Muscle imbalances cause your shoulders to rotate inward, compressing some shoulder structures and straining others.
5. Shoulder Not ‘Centered’
The best analogy I’ve heard for the shoulder joint is that it’s designed like a golf ball sitting on a golf tee. It is considered a ‘ball and socket joint‘. But unlike other ball and socket joints in our body (like the hip), the ‘ball’ is much bigger than the ‘socket’. Muscle imbalances like those described above cause the golf ball (head of the shoulder bone) to roll forward on the golf ‘tee’ (glenoid fossa). This compresses and strains certain structures of the shoulder and causes shoulder pain.
Shoulder centration exercises like the Bottom’s Up Kettlebell Hold should be included in most plans to solve shoulder pain.
The Bottom’s Up Kettle Bell Hold is a great exercise to introduce shoulder centration
To sum it up, improving movement and strength of the entire body is the best way to treat the underlying causes of shoulder pain. Assessing and addressing these five causes of shoulder pain will ensure you’re able to keep active and aintain your lifestyle as you get older. To learn more about improving movement and to get your own free 8-week movement and strength program, be sure to check out my free guide ‘Solving Pain With Strength’ at the linke below.