Shoulder Pain

We have all had achy shoulders at some time in our lives.

Shoulder pain can be completely debilitating. You can be left unable to dress, work and sleep or to pick up the smallest things. We rely on our shoulders for so many everyday activities – shopping, driving and looking after our children and pets to name a few.

The shoulder is a rather shallow ball and socket joint. It is this that gives the shoulder its large range of movement. However with greater movement comes a degree of instability. The shoulder is particularly prone to injury and dysfunction because of its unique anatomy.

As osteopaths, we are well trained  in the treatment and rehabilitation of shoulder pain and we can get you back to living the active life you want to live. We can also teach you how to stay out of trouble and offer regular ‘MOT style’ sessions to manage your pain better.

What are some of the biggest shoulder problems we see

  • Frozen shoulder
  • Rotator cuff problems
  • Arthritis
  • Acromio-clavicular joint problems
  • Labral tears
  • Pain referred from the neck or thorax
  • Shoulder injuries from sports most commonly caused by repetitive overhead throwing, lifting, falls or harsh collisions as in rugby and football

Let’s go into a bit more detail for a few of the more popular shoulder complaints

Frozen Shoulder (adhesive capsulitis)
Frozen shoulder, also called adhesive capsulitis, most commonly occurs between the ages of 40 and 60, especially in women. Often the non-dominant shoulder appears to be affected more than the dominant one. Many conditions can result in a stiff shoulder like arthritis, however a true frozen shoulder is characterized by a limitation of movement in all directions that is very disabling. This is because there are adhesions (sticky areas) and contractures of the capsule that surrounds the joint. We can play an important role in managing and reducing pain and restoring normal mobility and function more quickly with our expert manual approach. This sort of problem will respond well but will need the greatest attention so try and come in as soon as symptoms start.

Rotator cuff shoulder problems
These problems can involve a number of tendons around the shoulder, most commonly the supraspinatus. Characteristically, there is a pain when lifting the arm above the head. With rotator cuff problems it is possible for the shoulder to become quite restricted with time and manual intervention, such as deep tissue massage and stretching, is regarded as highly beneficial.

Tension in shoulders
It is very common for people to experience tension in the shoulder muscles especially if they work at a computer, carry heavy things or are in awkward positions at work, like plasterers and mothers with young children. Shoulder strains can occur as a result of incorrect gym work and we can treat and advise you how best to plan a new and improved gym routine. Often there are trigger points (tender knots on pressure) in the muscles. The origins of these are quite varied but usually a combination of structural and postural. Osteopathy or a stronger sports/deep tissue massage may be appropriate and we offer both at The Wimbledon Osteopath.

Why is working on a computer all day so bad?

People often find shoulder and neck tension can increase considerably with emotional stress or when working at a computer. It is often mistakenly assumed that stress is causing the problem, when in fact it is just an aggravating factor. The general lack of movement from sitiing all day is key not to mention poor posture.

Lots of patients who work on a PC on a regular basis find massage and manipulation keeps their problems at bay. We see and help a lot of people with elbow and wrist issues resulting from using a mouse, mobile or Ipad too much. These issues are easily resolved with a manual approach. Krystyna is well-known as being an expert in wrist techniques and thus lots of people, including professional musicians, come and see her.

What kind of treatment will you receive?

The type and cause of shoulder pain will direct the type of treatment we perform.

Most treatments will involve gentle movements (active and passive), traction and soft tissue massage to the shoulder area.

Heat may be advised for tender trigger points, which aren’t suitable for more direct work.

Exercise and postural advice will always be given to help with shoulder movement, range and dynamic control.

An osteopath will naturally look to the spine nearest to the shoulder to look for areas of restriction that may be contributing to the problem. For example, a very stiff spine won’t move and twist very well. So this, in turn, will force a reaching arm and shoulder to have to work harder and create more compression in the front part of the shoulder. By helping to improve mobility in the spine this will reduce the effect upon shoulder movement, making your recovery faster and longer lasting.