You’re teeing off on the golf course, hoping to get that birdie, and you feel a stabbing pain in your shoulder that prevents you from swinging at all. Maybe you’re an avid tennis player trying to serve an ace but your shoulder pain is preventing you from winning. Whether you’re a recreational athlete, weekend warrior or professional athlete, the idea of sustaining a game-ending rotator cuff injury is devastating. That doesn’t have to be the case. Once you understand the mechanics of the shoulder, there are a host of conservative treatment options that can prevent and/or treat shoulder pain. These therapies may also be used to avoid surgery or to help patients recover from a shoulder operation.
The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. Unlike the hip, it allows a much greater range of motion; but with greater motion comes more instability. Think of the shoulder joint as a golf ball on a golf tee. In order to stabilize the shoulder, there are numerous ligaments and muscles that make up the rotator cuff. One muscle of the rotator cuff, in particular, (the supraspinatus muscle) originates on top of the shoulder blade and travels under a bone in the shoulder called the acromion process. Whenever we raise our arms above our head, this muscle is susceptible to becoming “pinched” under the acromion process, causing shoulder impingement syndrome, a condition that often leads to tendonitis and rotator cuff tears.
Shoulder impingement syndrome is very common in sports that require overhead motions, such as serving a tennis ball and throwing a football or baseball. As the muscle becomes impinged during these activities, the body’s natural response creates inflammation and swelling, and the body lays down scar tissue to temporarily protect the area from further damage. Unfortunately, scar tissue can create myofasciitis, tendonitis and decreased overall function of the shoulder.
Non-invasive, conservative treatment of these acute and chronic shoulder injuries may include soft tissue therapies as well as chiropractic adjustments to realign and provide motion the spine and shoulder joints. The Graston Technique is a soft tissue mobilization technique that breaks up scar tissue and promotes healing in the shoulder. Ultrasound, electrical stimulation, cold laser and ice massage are physiotherapies, which help decrease inflammation and aid in healing the shoulder muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Kinesio-Taping (as seen on athletes at the 2008 Olympics) is another effective therapy in treating shoulder pain. It is a functional taping method using elastic tape to aid natural muscle function, eliminate swelling, and support the joint, while allowing full range of motion.
In addition to these treatments, the inciting factor that caused the problem must also be corrected. However, with effective physical therapy and chiropractic care, many people with chronic shoulder pain can be pain free in as little as 6 to 10 treatments.
Dr. Brandon Nevel is a chiropractor in Jupiter, FL with certifications as a sports physician, extremities practitioner, and as a USPTA tennis professional. For more information on shoulder treatments, visit www.TheJupiterChiropractor.com or call Dr. Nevel of Sport & Spinal Rehab at 561-406-6905.