• Joelle Karam

Physio Tip #2 - The Shoulder...beyond the "Rotator Cuff"


The intricate neurovascular network of the neck and shoulder, otherwise known as the brachial plexus*. Is it any wonder that the majority of people complain about soreness and pain in the area? Our lives are spent shrugged over computers or our phones, carrying bags over our shoulders way heavier than necessary and rarely spending time using the full capacity of our available neck and shoulder movement.

What does this mean? Stiffening and thickening of our connective tissue, decreased circulation and an irritated nervous system which leads to pain, headaches, jaw dysfunction, shoulder, neck and upper back pain, tingling down the arm...the list goes on. When someone presents with pain in this area, it is often diagnosed as something like "Rotator Cuff tendinopathy or tear", "Biceps tendonitis", "Bursitis", etc. Something pertaining to structural damage. This may very well be the case but often the neuromuscular system is overlooked as a source of specific pain that may replicate symptoms of the above mentioned conditions. Looking even further, inhibition of these nerves, compression of the blood vessels or both may also lead to true structural damage due too weakening or the inability to absorb forces through those tissues.

What can you do to combat this and prevent injury to this very intricate area?

1. MOVE: every day, look around you, reach your arms above your head, do arm circles, take deep belly breaths, find a way to sweat and get your blood pumping.

2. POSTURE: what you do most of the day is what will contribute to those seemingly "came out of nowhere" injuries - so sit up tall in front of your computer, don't hang your head down when you are looking at your tablet or phone and once again move frequently.

3. NUTRITION + HYDRATION: thirst is a delayed signal of dehydration. If you feel thirsty that means your cells are even more thirsty, which can lead to an increased perception of pain. Stay on top of your protein, good fats and carb consumption. Not all macros are created equal so consider the micronutrients within those macros. The higher the quality of protein and fats and the more veggies you eat the happier your system will be.

Your inside reflects your outside...how would you like to look and feel?

4. GET ASSESSED: if you think you've been following all of these tips yet still experience pain, discomfort or the inability to do certain things, do not delay going to a movement specialist for an assessment. The longer you wait and think "it will go away" the longer your brain thinks this pain is normal. While the pain may appear to go away, what your body has actually done is found a way to avoid the pain. You will subconsciously compensate until you cannot compensate any more, and something else will break down. The longer you wait, the longer the recovery.

*image is from the app "Essential Anatomy 5"


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