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The Shoulder Optimization Program

How would you describe your shoulder pain?

This is the most likely phrase you'll hear when seeking help for your shoulder. And as a physiotherapist, it is the one question that gives the widest variety of responses. From a vague dull ache to a sharp, specific pain, even a strange burning sensation down the outside of your arm, all may relate to an issue stemming from the shoulder. Maybe you aren’t feeling much pain at all but feel stiffness, or simply can’t move your arm.

The shoulder is a very complex joint. It is very mobile and requires many muscles to effectively stabilize and utilize the arm. With that complexity, comes a very lengthy list of potential structural, muscular, and nerve injuries that can cause you pain. The silver lining is that despite there being so many potential causes for shoulder and arm pain; if we systematically strengthen and release the different functional muscle groups of the shoulder to optimize its mechanics and positioning the shoulder, the shoulder improves! We can achieve a reduction in pain, improve mobility, reduce instability, and develop strength.

At Momentum Health we have developed the ‘Shoulder Optimization Program’ (SOP), to provide patients with shoulder issues affordabe access to physiotherapy in a group setting. Despite many differing causes and complaints of shoulder pain, a well-rounded program of mobility and strengthening exercises can get you on the right path to improving your shoulder. We can tailor the program to your specific needs by adjusting the difficulty and targeting of each section of the program.

Here are a couple of trigger point releases that you can try at home today. Maybe these couple tricks will help you relieve a bit of your shoulder pain … no matter how you describe it ;)

Trigger point release with a lacrosse ball:

1) Upper Fiber Traps - 1 reps, 3 sets - 1 minute

Go to the corner of a wall with your lacrosse ball (or similar hard ball). Place the ball on top of your shoulder beside your neck. Bend at your hips so that the target shoulder meets the wall and press the ball into the muscle. It should feel like you are massaging the muscle but should not be painful.

2) Levator Scap - 1 reps, 3 sets - 1 minute

Stand up straight with your back to a wall. Place a Lacrosse ball against the wall and lean your upper back onto the ball.

You can put the lacrosse ball in a sock to help position it in the proper area.

Roll the ball around the area.

If you feel a particularly tender spot, hold this position leaning back onto the ball to place some pressure on the area until it releases.

If the area feels too tender feel free to put as little pressure as needed to still feel the effects of the exercise.

3) Pec - 1 reps, 3 sets - 1 minute

Pin a lacrosse ball between your pec and the wall. Slide back and forth against the wall. Lean closer to the wall for a deeper release.

If you have been experiencing your shoulder pain for a while, or the severity of your pain has been keeping you from your favorite activities … hang in there. Working towards optimizing the shoulder mechanics can work for you if you give it a chance and stick with it. Call us to ask about the Shoulder Optimization Program, currently available at Momentum Health Seton - other locations to come soon!

- Rebecca Brandt, PT

Rebecca graduated from the University of Alberta with a Masters of Science in Physical Therapy. Prior to this degree she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. While studying at the University of Alberta she competed on the Pandas Varsity Soccer team. As a student-athlete, Rebecca understands the commitment it takes to excel in competitive sports, but understands the challenges of finding time to fit everything in. She relocated to Calgary, Alberta in 2018 and has previously worked in Okotoks and Red Deer. Rebecca has completed further training in manual therapy, functional dry needling, Mulligan mobilizations, and has experience in treating individuals in the community with Parkinson’s Disease and MS. She is passionate about being a physical therapist and helping people achieve their goals while recovering from an injury, overcoming chronic pain, or maintaining an active lifestyle. Away from work, Rebecca enjoys running, skiing, biking, playing tennis, and training her dog in agility.

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