Have you ever done lots with your shoulder in one day like hedge cutting or overhead painting, only to find you have developed a very painful shoulder? Hopefully not!
If you do get a sore shoulder from time to time it’s good to know why this can happen. You may have heard of the rotator cuff, a group of four muscles that control your humerus in it’s small socket. In fact it’s not really a socket, it’s more like a shallow disc- a tee, relative to a golf ball. Well, the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles have to run through some small spaces (called the coracoacromial arch) to then attach to the bone of the humerus. There are many factors that contribute to how large this space is. For example the position and way your shoulder blade sits at and move, as well as your own bony morphology (a cool way of saying how your bones are constructed through genetics and use in life). If the space is not big enough to allow the tendons to go through then we can develop symptoms.
In a recent research study by , et al (2017) in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, it was found that at 1 hour and 6 hours after exercise the tendons actually swell, and this can be part of the pain you feel later in the day after pruning in the garden, or admiring your ceiling! The space is the same, but the tendon is bigger. This research also gives us good information of how to manage a painful shoulder. We know that exercise works, but if we know the tendon swells in response to it, we should do our rehab exercises once a day, or maybe even every second day to allow the tendon to calm down and not get compressed in the small space it has to go through.
If you live elsewhere, find a local Titled APA Sports Physiotherapist. Titled therapists have a Masters Degree (Sports Physiotherapy) and spend time at the Australian Institute of Sport, and must be approved by the Australian Physiotherapy Association to be called a ‘Sports Physiotherapist’.