The Shoulder Series - Part 1

Working with shoulder injuries and pain conditions

The shoulder is complicated and can be the site of many different injuries and pain conditions. Massage can often be really helpful as part of co-ordinated treatment plan especially if you are already under the care of a Physician or Physical Therapist. But let’s start with the basics, understanding the key structures in the shoulder and how they move and work together.

“The Shoulder” is made up of four different joints….

The Glenohumeral Joint is the ball and socket joint at the top of the arm and it has more range of motion than any other joint in the body. Great you might think, but what we gain in range of motion we lose in stability and this can sometimes cause problems. The “socket” part of this joint is very shallow and we rely on a ring of cartilage called the Glenoid Labrum to deepen the socket and provide stability. Our Rotator Cuff Muscles also provide stability by holding the “ball”  in the “socket”.

The Sternoclavicular Joint is where your collar bone connects to your breastbone, and there’s not much movement here.

The Acromioclavicular Joint (which even doctors just call the AC joint, because nobody has time for all that) is where the very top of your shoulder blade connects to the far end of your collarbone.

The fourth joint is not really a true joint and is often called an articulation (scapulothoracic articulation), but it is super important in healthy shoulder movement. It is where your shoulder blade sits on top of your ribcage, and should rotate upwards or downwards when you move your arm. Certain injuries or conditions can disrupt this essential shoulder blade movement.

There are also a lot of tissues in the shoulder that when compressed, irritated or inflamed can cause pain. In addition to certain muscle tendons the glenoid labrum (mentioned above), the joint capsule, ligaments, bursa and nerves can all be involved. So as I said, it’s complicated!

Shoulder pain can result from a traumatic injury like falling off your bike or slipping over on ice with your your arm outstretched. It can also slowly creep up on you as a result of repetitive motions that you do as part of your job or a sport you play regularly. If rest, ice and ibuprofen hasn’t done the trick it’s time to visit your doctor for an evaluation and if necessary referral to Physical Therapy.

Once you have been assessed and have a treatment plan in place for your specific injury or condition, Massage Therapy can be integrated in to that plan. Massage can be used to:

  • Lengthen short and tight tissues.

  • Treat fatigued and compensating muscles.

  • Reduce hypertonicity and tension in muscles around the shoulder joints.

  • Reduce muscle spasms.

  • Decrease tissue dysfunction at the site of injury.

  • Encourage collagen production.

  • Facilitate healthy scar tissue repair.

  • Decrease compression of tissues.

  • Prevent adhesions.

In the next few posts in this blog series we’ll take a deep dive into how massage can help with specific shoulder conditions. Most painful shoulder conditions usually require a multifaceted approach and Massage Therapy can play an important role in your treatment plan.

So, how do you find a qualified and experienced Massage Therapist to treat your shoulder? You’ve already found one! Click here to book an appointment.