By far, one of the most common pains and injuries we see at our clinic is shoulder pain. Whether it is a minor annoyance caused by an intrinsic shoulder problem or a sharp pain that’s sometimes referred from other structures, shoulder pain hampers your ability to move freely, leaving you with discomfort all day long.
As an extremely mobile and complex piece of machinery that has an essential role in the movement of the arm, the shoulder is at a high risk for injury. Most shoulder problems occur as a result of injury to the soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) or joints, which can be caused by performing manual labor, playing sports, or by repetitive movement. This can lead to the inflammation of the bursae (bursitis) and tendons (tendonitis) or result in rotator cuff tear, as well as labral tear, frozen shoulder, and instability.
However, an aching shoulder may not necessarily be the sign of a shoulder problem. Sometimes, shoulder pain is the consequence of injury to another location in the body – usually the neck, but also the biceps, lungs, pelvis, and other structures. Patients with referred shoulder pain may or may not experience symptoms from the originating source. Instead, they often feel a dull ache that’s difficult to localize and can vary in severity and duration.
While severe cases of shoulder pain might require physical therapy, medication, or even surgery, most cases of mild to moderate pain can be alleviated with natural remedies, which have almost no side effects or risk of complications. Below we’ve listed some of the most effective.
Alternative Therapies for Treating Shoulder Pain
Self-Myofascial Release (SMR)
The upper trap muscles knot up regularly, and this may cause a general feeling of tightness and pressure in the shoulders, as well as tension headaches. All you need to release muscles in and around your shoulder is a small, firm self-massage lacrosse ball that can be used for your pecs, upper traps, rhomboids, lats, and triceps. (If the lacrosse ball is too hard and causes too much pain, try a tennis ball in the beginning and later make the transition to the lacrosse ball.)
SMR for upper traps: Lie flat on your back with the knees bent and place the ball under your upper traps. Start bringing your arm up and back towards the ground and then oscillate it up and down. You will soon be able to feel and release the knots and tight muscles in this area.
Yoga can be a boon to the shoulders, but it can also be a tremendous bust. While an intense yoga class with many repetitions of Downdogs and Chaturangas may make your shoulders even more vulnerable, some poses can help with any chronic pain around the shoulder blades and in the upper back, whether caused by incorrect posture or demanding activities. Poses such as Dolphin or Half Frog allow you to stretch and open the chest correctly while also increasing your flexibility and range of motion.
Muscle strains, cartilage tears, muscle/tendon tears, postural strains, and frozen shoulder are best addressed by massage therapy, which can relieve stress and strain on the muscles and help your shoulder move and function optimally. Trigger point therapy and professional massage therapy can help:
- Decrease pain from trigger points
- Lengthen shortened muscles
- Break up adhesions around the shoulder
- Stimulate proper body mechanics
- Promote healing and fast recovery
The first step of your chiropractic treatment for shoulder pain is control of pain and inflammation, which can be achieved by your chiropractor with the help of painless, drug-free therapies such as electrical muscle stimulation, heat and ice, and ultrasound. Hands-on treatments such as chiropractic manipulations are performed to improve the range of motion in the shoulder and nearby structures, while gentle joint mobilizations and adjustments will help restore normal biomechanics to the shoulder joint.
Depending on the cause and severity of your shoulder pain, one or a combination of these alternative therapies may help reduce pain and treat injuries successfully. You should see your physician if your shoulder pain is either the result of an injury or shows no sign of improvement after a couple of weeks.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.