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Shoulder impingement: what is it and how to treat it?

Posted May 17 2011 11:02am

MC-article-shoulder300.1 Shoulder impingement is one of the most painful injuries out there.  It also can sneak up on you; where one minute you are swimming masters  and the next you can’t reach up for a glass in your kitchen cabinet.

What is it?

Ever suffer from a sharp, pinching, dagger-like pain in  the anterior area of your shoulder, that takes you by surprise where you scream to yourself, what the heck was that?  This scenario could very well be shoulder impingement.

Shoulder impingement is basically the inflammation of the surrounding tendons and muscles of your shoulder joint.  Not the same as bursitis or tendonitis but closely related. Most often the cause is due to  muscular imbalance, which then affects the tendons in the shoulder pulling on the joint and not allowing full mobility.  The symptoms come on quickly and can commonly be initiated but a certain movements, such as reaching behind the back, overhead or across your chest.

The Bad News

The bad news is if this is not addressed it can cause a bone spur, a tendon tear or a number of other things requiring surgery.  This is what we try to avoid.  I listed several stretches to help regain symmetry surrounding the shoulder, but if symptoms persist an x-ray is advised as well as a follow up visit with a specialist.

As I said earlier, most impingements are caused be muscular imbalances. This consists of an imbalance between your pectoral (chest) and back muscles.  Imbalance can also lead to poor posture and rounding of the shoulders.  Therefore, step one would be to stretch your chest, anterior deltoids and attaching tendons in the anterior part of your shoulder.  The second step would be to strengthen your posterior tendons and back muscles to stabilize the shoulder joint, ultimately permitting full range of motion.

Listed below are some fast acting stretches with their corresponding accessories.

STEP 1: Stretching

Use a foam roller and place it along your spinal column where the roller is centered in your back.  Allow your chest and shoulders to open up and draw your arms out to the side in 180 degrees.  For an added stretch flex your palms.  Once you can stretch that way, simulate a controlled snow angel with your arms. Your arms should start down at your side and gently raise them up to over your head. Repeat several times to stretch the chest and shoulders.

Tennis_ball-1019. Opening Your Chest Some More

Stand in a door way and raise your arms to 180 degrees.  Place your hands and forearms along the frame, to where your elbows are bent at 90 degrees and gently (very slowly) step forward to where your body is now in the doorway while your arms stay positioned on the door frame, opening the chest.  Do not overstretch, where you feel a burning sensation, remember your chest is tight, BABY STEPS!

Tennis Ball

Take a tennis ball and place it in between your scapula and spinal column all the while leaning against a wall. Now, the fun, yet painful part begins, remember to breathe. Roll the ball around until you feel pressure and the tennis ball starts working out the knots.  Continue to do this until you feel the knots have loosened.

These stretches are a great start to loosing up your chest and shoulders.

Stay tuned, because next week as I will give the strengthening tips.

1122913335_i6FJc-M Stefanie McNabb is a certified Classic Pilates instructor her classes help give you freedom from pain, stress and injury. Having been introduced to Pilates more than 13 years ago while she was a professional ballet dancer; Stef knows how to transform your body so muscular imbalances are no longer an issue.

Core stability? No problem!

Lack of flexibility? Get ready to touch your toes!

Check out her web site HERE for more great tips to get your body in motion.

Follow on twitter @ everymantri or view latest videos on YouTube .


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