The shoulder is one of the most amazing joints in the body. In fact it is not a 'joint', but rather a 'complex' of 5 joints, over 30 muscles and 6 major ligaments. The shoulder can assume no less than 1,600 different positions! There is more movement at the shoulder joint than at any other joint in the body. As such, it is easily prone to overuse and injury. Shoulder injuries can often be prevented, by following simple guidelines.
- Stay in good overall physical shape. Strengthen your wrist, arm, shoulder, neck, and back muscles to help protect and decrease stress on your shoulder. Do stretching and range-of-motion (ROM) exercises for your arms and shoulders.
- Maintain good posture. Stand straight and relaxed, without slumping.
- Warm up well and stretch before any activity. Stretch after exercise to keep hot muscles from shortening and cramping.
- Wear protective gear during sports or recreational activities, such as roller-skating or soccer.
- Wear your seat belt when in a motor vehicle.
- Do not use alcohol or other drugs before participating in sports or when operating a motor vehicle or other equipment.
- Don't carry objects that are too heavy. Make sure children and teenagers use school bags and backpacks correctly.
- Avoid catching falling objects.
- Use a step stool. Do not stand on chairs or other unsteady objects.
- Use the correct body movements or positions during activities, such as lifting, so that you do not strain your shoulder. Do not lift objects that are too heavy for you.
- Avoid overusing your arm doing repeated movements that can injure your bursa or tendons. In daily routines or hobbies, think about the activities in which you make repeated arm movements. Try alternating hands during activities such as gardening, cooking, or playing musical instruments. Use rest, ice, compression, elevate (RICE) for home treatment.
- Avoid keeping your arms out to the side or raised overhead for long periods of time, such as when painting a ceiling. If you must do these things, take frequent breaks, and use RICE for home treatment.
- Consider consulting a sports-training specialist if you are a competitive or serious recreational athlete. The specialist can recommend training and conditioning programs to prevent shoulder problems or injuries.
- Make sure your child's backpack is the right size with good support. Carrying heavy backpacks may increase the risk of shoulder problems or injury.
- If you feel that activities at your workplace are causing pain or soreness from overuse, call your human resources department for information on alternative ways of doing your job or to discuss equipment modifications or other job assignments.
Cody Carlson CPT, Gold's Gyms of Wenatchee Valley