Our body is an amazing blend of science and art, we possess the ability to move unhindered and perform complex tasks. Unfortunately, like any machine, we are susceptible to break down and require regular maintenance. It is interesting that we understand the need for regular tune-ups and preventative care in regards to our things: car, bike, shoes etc. Yet when it comes to our own body we are not willing to invest the same time and effort.
One such area that is susceptible to injury is the shoulder, chronic shoulder pain ranks near the top of the musculoskeletal pathology list, second only to knee-related issues. A 2015 study of the US population revealed 18.7 million individuals over the age of 18 complain of chronic shoulder pain. In 2005 the NYU School of Medicine estimated the direct costs associated with shoulder pathology at an uncomfortable 7 billion a year. In the past decade, our lifestyle has become increasingly sedentary which has likely raised the costs associated well above the previously estimated 18 million.
In many situations, we cannot avoid the sedentary lifestyle that makes us so susceptible, our family, school and work obligations rob us of the opportunity to move. As a result, we must take steps to avoid injury. The six tips below will help to save your shoulders, hopefully preventing years of rehabilitation and saving thousands of dollars.
#1 – Posture
About par for the course? As I sit here typing I am forever reminding myself to sit up straight, pull my shoulders back and tuck in my chin. Our upper back musculature is constantly strained and weak as a result of the horrible position we put ourselves in daily. Driving, office work, and eternally checking Snapchat are all culprits of poor posture. The musculature is supposed to function in an endurance capacity, remaining in the same position for long periods of time without fatiguing. Instead, we have stretched and neglected it resulting in tissue change. The naturally resilient muscles now fatigue quickly and we settle back into the horrible posture we are trying so hard to avoid. Holding yourself accountable to proper posture is a small win that can help improve overall shoulder health.
#2 – Soft Tissue Release
Soft tissue release is an amazing option and functions as both provide preventative and rehabilitative. Self-myofascial release -foam rolling- has received increased attention in recent years but still warrants mentioning. It is an inexpensive tool that can break up adhesions within the muscle that leads to tension and increased injury risk. Paired with qualified ART Therapist you will feel 100 percent in no time. We suggest short and frequent sessions throughout the day rather than one marathon roll out.
#3 – Mobility
Mobility and activation, this doesn’t mean stretching your chest inside the squat rack. As children, we are able to more uninhibited through our natural range as we age inactivity, injury, and overuse takes its toll making previously smooth movements labored and often impossible. Mobility paired with soft tissue work will help to return to our natural range of motion and keep the joint injury free. We have included two of our favorite mobility exercises below.
#4 – Activation
Mobility improves the range of motion but activation helps to maintain the range while preventing injury. Our body, much like a machine is designed to fire in a specific manner. When you turn the key in the ignition of your car it does not magically start, there are a series of steps required. Our body works in the same manner, when you raise your arm specific muscles activate in a specific order creating smooth, pain-free movement. Activation exercises ensure the body fires properly and help to prevent overuse/ postural injuries.
#5 – Eat Your Veggies
Your parents didn’t lie. Vegetables are incredibly important in maintaining an overall healthy body but also in injury avoidance. They have an alkalizing effect on our body, meaning they decrease acidity. If our internal ecosystem becomes too acidic, the result of a diet heavy in red meats and processed foods, our tendons, and ligaments as susceptible to strains and tears.
#6 – Supplementation
We discussed the importance of eating your vegetables (whole foods diet) but supplementation also has a place. If you are an active individual acquiring all of the necessary nutrients may be difficult through food alone, supplementation is a great way to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Two supplements that we recommend for shoulder health are Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Curcumin. Omega FA aids in improving joint health and lubrication. They cannot be produced internally by our body which makes diet and supplementation even more important. Curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, helps further reduce inflammation within the body much like eating your vegetables which in turn reduces injury risk.