Shoulder pain can make simple tasks like pulling the covers over in bed, putting on a shirt, or doing pushups incredibly painful. Last week, we discussed the 3 common categories of shoulder pain that we often see:
- Shoulder impingement
- Shoulder instability
- Tendon strain/tear
We limited last week’s discussion to the first category. Today we’re going to address the second category: shoulder instability.
The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint. It looks kind of like a golf ball sitting on a tee.
The tee is the end of your shoulder blade (the socket), and the ball is the end of your shoulder. The rotator cuff muscles work to control the ball end of your shoulder to keep it sitting on the socket correctly. The shoulder blade muscles work to control the position of the socket. Shoulder instability happens when these muscles stop working correctly. This can happen because those muscles get weak or because they stop working together the way they should. You may notice that you shoulder feels “loose” or gives out on you. You may feel this when throwing a ball, putting your arm behind your back, or pushing through your arms. Fortunately, you can often regain strength and control of your shoulder with some specific exercises. Here are two exercises that can help with getting your shoulder strong and working well again:
Shoulder external rotation
Shoulder external rotation increases the strength of your rotator cuff. This makes sure that the muscles are strong enough to control the shoulder.
Make sure to keep your shoulder blade pinched back throughout the entire movement. Start with no weight if your shoulder is really hurting, otherwise start with 1 or 2 pounds. Try 3 sets of 10 of these every other day, progressing to 3 sets of 15 as they get easier. Once you can do 3 sets of 15 with only mild fatigue, then your next session you can add another pound and start at 3 sets of 10 again.
Shoulder taps are a good way to improve shoulder awareness and control. They can also help you regain strength and endurance of your rotator cuff and shoulder blade muscles. The shoulder that is supporting your weight on the table is the one you’re working. Initially do this exercise on the edge of a table or kitchen counter. As they get easier, you can progress to a chair or the floor. Touch each shoulder 20 times to start. You can also make it tougher by only doing it on one arm instead of switching arms during the exercise.
Neither of the exercises above should make you hurt more. If they do, or if you’ve tried these and you’re still hurting, we can help you! At Solutions Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine, we’re experts at treating shoulder pain and will develop a plan to help you beat it.
Helping you live your best life,
The Solutions Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Team