3 Exercises for Weak or Painful Shoulders

Acute or chronic shoulder pain is a common reason a person might seek out the services of a therapist. In this blog post, we will cover the starting point of our favorite exercises for weak or painful shoulders. First, we will discuss different types of exercise and how we use each type to promote pain management. Then we will demonstrate shoulder alignment and give instructions for strong, healthy shoulder joints!

Sound like a plan? Here goes...

When we initiate a plan of action for either acute or chronic pain, we structure an exercise sequence in a specific order. The first goal is to calm down the pain response and bring more stability to the joint in order to allow for bigger movement. Once pain is addressed, we look at underlying movement patterns and reinforce patterns to promote optimal joint health! Let's take a look at the difference between different types of strengthening exercise and discuss a starting point for weak or painful shoulder joints.

Different types of...

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Try This: Exercise for Grip, Core, and Shoulder Strengthening

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and indoor

Several years ago, a study found those who have greater grip strength are also less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. Research has also shown that weaker grip strength is associated with greater fall risk in older adults
 
So what is the lesson we can learn in this? Does this mean we should all just work to improve our grip strength to protect us from adverse health events?
 
Not exactly.
 
Grip strength doesn't exist in a vacuum. We can infer from the results of these studies higher grip strength is a good indicator of overall physical fitness. Those who are physically fit are less likely to experience heart disease and less likely to fall. The goal then is not grip strength alone, but to find activities that involve whole body movement. Hanging is essential to developing strong shoulder joints, and by proxy improve grip strength. Most of our shoulder joints don’t have the proper range and strength for overhead hanging (due to...
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Quick Test: What Does Actual Shoulder Mobility Look Like?

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and indoor

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and indoor

A key component in maintaining strong, healthy shoulder joints is understanding how to differentiate between using actual shoulder movement v. other movements to compensate for a lack of shoulder mobility.

As the above photos demonstrate, more than one motion can be used to reach arms overhead. Many of us mistakenly believe we're using shoulder mobility to accomplish this motion.

The first photo shows someone reaching arms overhead to touch the wall behind them. At a glance, this might look like fantastic shoulder mobility, but take a closer look at what is happening at the rib cage. It moved away from the wall to help move the arms further overhead. Once the end of actual shoulder mobility is reached, rib cage thrusting can help us achieve further movement without using the shoulders but using the low back instead. 

Is this a problem? Not always. But if you are looking to improve actual shoulder joint mobility, compensating with rib cage thrusting bypasses the...

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What is a Floor Transfer?

 

Why do we care so much about your ability to get on and off the floor?
 
Because the ability to get on and off the floor without the use of your hands is a strong physical predictor of early disability and death.
 
This is why one of the first skills we cover with new clients is getting on and off the floor. Not only is this a life-saving skill but it's also one of our favorite exercises for healthy aging!
 
There are an infinite number of ways you can get on and off the floor, as well as unlimited options for sitting positions once you are on the floor. The confidence to know you can safely and easily get off the floor decreases your future risk of falls!
 
If you're currently able to get yourself on and off the floor, continue to practice this skill daily. If you are unsure, see a physical or occupational therapist for a floor transfer test. 
 
A floor transfer test is nothing fancy. As shown in the pictures above, the...
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Alignment 101: Foot Alignment Points

Happy, healthy feet are the key to healthy movement. As we've said before, your feet are the foundation of your body. You wouldn’t want a foundation of a house that's not aligned, so you don't want the same from the foundation of your body.

Again, when it comes to alignment we want to stress that the ultimate goal is not perfectionThe goal is to recognize that how you move plays a huge role in how your body functions. If you're striving to change your movement, explore your movement habits using alignment points.
 
Better foot alignment will optimize your walking, stabilize your core, and improve your balance. Maintaining correct foot alignment requires mobility of the joints and strength of the muscles of your feet. The more mobile your foot and ankle, the better they absorb reaction force of walking. This reduces the reaction force that goes through your hips and knees, leaving your joints happy and healthy. In the end, walking with rigid feet demands...
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Quick Test: Are Your Hips Actually Weight-Bearing?

In order for your hips to be building bone density through the day, they need to be supporting the weight of your pelvis and torso in a certain alignment. 


A common pattern we see with resting standing positions is standing with the pelvis pushed slightly forward (as in the first picture). It's subtle but has major implications for bone health of the hips (not to mention the long term impact of this position on foot health, core strength, and balance).

Shifting the pelvis back so your body weight is carried over the heels (second picture) and maintaining this position throughout the day allows for optimal bone health. However, getting to this position if this is not your usual requires taking a closer look at the muscle groups that attach to the pelvis. 

A quick and simple test to help you determine where you carry your center of mass: make a plumb line from string with something weighted at the bottom. Position yourself facing sideways toward a mirror and find the boniest...

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All Walking is Not Created Equal

When it comes to walking, most of us have a strong preference between walking outdoors, indoors, or on a treadmill. We tend to think these activities are interchangeable from a health perspective, but are they? The surfaces that we walk on change the experience of our body and the muscles that we use.

Walking overground should be powered by the backs of our legs with our torso vertical. In order to propel us forward, our muscles generate a pushing action behind us to push the ground away. On the other hand, a treadmill forces our body to do exactly the opposite, relying on a walking pattern driven by the muscles in the front of the hip and thigh to catch yourself because the “ground” is coming toward you. Therefore, treadmill walking is not the same as walking overground.

So Why Does This Matter?

For most of us, the muscles of the fronts of our hips are already shortened due to time spent sitting every day. Treadmill use encourages further shortening and overuse of...

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Let's Talk About Hamstring Stretching

Let’s talk about hamstring stretching...

The hamstrings are a large muscle group running up the back of the thigh that attach below the knee and to the base of the pelvis. Hamstring mobility is so important because walking, core stability, and the ability to get on and off the floor all depend on the positioning of the pelvis. Tight hamstrings (caused by lots of time spent sitting) keep the pelvis in a tucked position that is not great for optimal pelvic and core health. 

There are several different ways in which the hamstrings can be stretched. The most common one we see is the forward bend.

There is more than one way to perform a forward bend, however the point of a hamstring stretch is to change the length of the hamstrings. Therefore movement should be from the pelvis and not the spine.


A compensation we commonly see for tight hamstrings is an excessive rounding of the spine (picture 1). In this scenario, the spine is being over-stretched while there is not much...

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Shoulder Stabilizing Exercise for Weak or Painful Shoulders

One of our favorite exercises for chronic shoulder pain is isometric shoulder strengthening. An isometric exercise involves using the muscle without moving the joint through a range of motion. This is a great initial start to a strengthening program to bring stability to a joint.
 
Isometric exercises can be done in all directions to strengthen multiple muscle groups. This easy exercise can be performed by positioning yourself near something that can provide resistance, like a wall. Then gently push your arm into the wall and hold for a few seconds. Sounds straightforward enough, but this is also an easy exercise to compensate with different movement patterns. The pattern we most often see people doing is performing a shoulder exercise using their trunk rather than actually using their shoulder (as demonstrated in the above photos, be like picture 2 not picture 1!) Trunk stability in this exercise is essential for proper shoulder strengthening.
 
 

Get...

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The Whole Picture of Chronic Pain Isn't What You Think

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

As the chronic pain epidemic continues to pour over into the opioid epidemic, new research continues to break down the complexity of chronic pain. Just a few short years ago, chronic pain was viewed completely from a biomechanical perspective. When the medical community realized that treating only the injury was not only not working, but the epidemic of chronic pain continued to worsen they realized they needed to take a step back and look at the whole person. What has been discovered has been an eye-opening look at how chronic pain involves factors beyond what is happening within body tissue. Now, we take a broader look at the whole person and understand chronic pain has a multitude of origins.

The Actual Risk Factors for Chronic Pain

Over time, physicians and other professionals realized the amount of tissue damage...

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