The Shoulder Your Body’s Most Mobile Joint
The shoulder is one of the largest and most complex joints in the body with the greatest range of motion of any joint meaning the request for shoulder pain exercises from physiotherapists is a common appeal. Because of this significant mobility the shoulder is at risk of injury and degenerative problems. The shoulder joint design is a ball and socket joint formed where the humerus fits into the scapula (shoulder blade) and it is this joint formation that allows considerable movement but means the shoulder relies very heavily on the joint capsule, ligaments, the labrum and musculotendinous structures to provide joint stability. The goal of the shoulder joint is to get the compromise between stability and mobility just right, so the fine balance required for the shoulder to function with a large range of movement yet be stable and strong enough to take load, lift and throw from a variety of positions is weighted perfectly thus avoiding injury.
Shoulder Structures Commonly Causing Shoulder Pain
There are several important structures in the shoulder that can commonly result in the need for shoulder pain exercises including:
- The rotator cuff, a collection of muscles and tendons that create movement, provide stability and joint position control.
- The sub acromial bursa, a small sac of fluid sitting under the acromium that cushions and protects the tendons of the rotator cuff with movement.
- The Labrum, a cuff of cartilage forming a cup like support for the head of the humerus (the ‘ball’ of the ball and socket joint) to fit into.
The Balance Between Mobility And Stability
Minor injury to any of these structures are commonly managed conservatively with physiotherapy and shoulder pain exercises. The vulnerability of these tissues to injury is significant due to that fine balance required between mobility and stability discussed earlier. If the balance is even a little bit off then injury can occur. If the shoulder is too mobile and doesn’t have the strength to match and support this mobility or vice versa where the shoulder is strong but too tight in certain movements then injury to any of these above structures may occur.
You can liken the ball and socket joint of the shoulder to a golf ball sitting on top of a golf tee, where the socket doesn’t encase the ball and thus structure has the ball sitting on top of the “tee” without much support from the boney socket. Therefore this is why the rotator cuff is frequently indicated as being so important to your overall shoulder function, the rotator cuff is a group of tendons attaching four shoulder muscles to the upper arm, and helps keep the “ball” in place within it’s shallow socket ensuring the arm moves freely and ideally functions positioned biomechanically centered within the joint.
No Shortcuts, Injury Specific Shoulder Pain Exercises Are Vital
Due to this very small joint contact zone your shoulder is quite unstable and this is exactly why your shoulder muscles are so vital to a normally functioning shoulder. In many cases shoulder pain is because your muscles (specifically the rotator cuff) are simply not strong enough, imbalanced or uncoordinated in their firing and control of movement. These dysfunctions can be normalised following assessment and injury-specific shoulder pain exercises.
Age And Activity Frequently Dictate Specific Shoulder Disorders
Shoulder disorders are a common complaint some reports have around 3/10 adults as being affected by a shoulder disorder at any one time. Common shoulder disorders can be age and activity dependent, with frozen shoulders and rotator cuff disorders being common in middle age to older populations and shoulder instability and acute AC joint disorders tending to affect younger more active populations.
Shoulder pain is a problem with a number of potential causes and reasons as to why someone may be experiencing pain, the prescription of shoulder pain exercises depends on the origin of the pain and this only comes from accurate assessment. Although in many situations generic shoulder pain exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff may be safe and appropriate, in some situations these exercises may in fact aggravate the disorder and other times only specific exercises focusing on one or more of the rotator cuff muscles may be indicated due to an imbalance of strength. This is why seeing a qualified Sydney physiotherapist, being assessed and then prescribed appropriate exercises for your shoulder disorder is always the safest and most effective approach when wanting to start a program of shoulder pain exercises.
Disclaimer: Sydney Physio Clinic does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products mentioned. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance on Shoulder Pain Exercises should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, general practitioner or physiotherapist.