By Stephanie Nolting
Shoulder impingement is a common issue that we see in physical therapy and there are many possible reasons for impingement to occur. One of the biggest things to pay attention to is posture. Some people will have extreme forward head and shoulders; in young adults it’s sometimes referred to as “gameboy back” and in older adults we tend to see a trend of forward posture as people lose confidence in balance and compensate by looking down as they walk. For whatever reason your posture may be less than ideal, that forward head and shoulder position can put extra pressure on the nerves that come from the neck and down the arm. When a nerve is pushed on (by muscle, bone, disc or other anatomy), the nerve interprets the pressure as pain and sometimes numbness or tingling sensations that radiate down the arm. When the compression is more on a tendon, muscle or joint the pain is more pin-point and sharp. In therapy we find where the pain is coming from and why it came on. So we might treat the pain at the tendon or nerve but the most important thing is to correct the reason why is started in the first place, for example bad posture.
Here are a couple of things you can check on yourself at home:
1) Quick check to see if you have an impingement: place the palm of your hand on the opposite shoulder. Keeping contact of the palm on the shoulder, raise the elbow up and down. If there was pain to do that, you likely have an impingement.
2) Posture check: stand with your back to a wall. Put your back side and shoulder blades touching the wall and see if you can touch the back of your head to the wall without tilting your head back (eyes should be looking straight forward). If you can do that, then try to touch the back of the elbows and hands to the wall at or above shoulder level. If you can do that, then keep the hands and forearms in contact with the wall at all times and slide the arms up overhead until you can touch fingertips together. Return to shoulder level and repeat. You should be able to do this 5-10 times easily.
For More information on how to prevent shoulder impingement, be sure to come to Michael Flores’ workshop on 5/22/2019 from 5-6 pm at PT-Connections. Giveaways and prizes will be provided.