Shoulder impingement can be a painful and limiting condition that affects many people, especially those over 40 who engage in repetitive overhead activities or have overuse syndromes. This condition is caused by the compression or pinching of the tendons and bursa in the shoulder joint, resulting in pain, weakness, and limited mobility. Fortunately, there are exercises that can help to alleviate shoulder impingement and prevent future occurrences.
Before we dive into the exercises, let’s review some common symptoms and causes of shoulder impingement. Symptoms can include pain in the shoulder when reaching overhead, weakness in the shoulder or arm, and difficulty lifting objects or performing daily activities. Common causes of shoulder impingement include repetitive overhead activities such as painting, throwing, or swimming, overuse syndromes, and poor posture.
Strengthening the shoulder
Exercise is an effective way to alleviate shoulder impingement by strengthening the muscles that support the shoulder joint and improving range of motion. Here are some exercises that can help:
- Codman’s exercise involves gently swinging your arm back and forth while leaning forward. To perform Codman’s exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lean forward, supporting your weight on a stable surface such as a table or chair. Let your arm hang down, then swing it gently back and forth in a circular motion for 10 repetitions. Repeat on the other arm.
- Seated or standing rows: Rows are a great exercise for strengthening the upper back muscles that support the shoulder joint. To perform a row, sit or stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grasp a resistance band or dumbbells. Pull your shoulder blades together and back, bend your elbows and pull the weights or band toward your chest. Hold for a second, then slowly release back to the starting position. Repeat for 10 repetitions.
- External rotation: External rotation exercises help strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, which are often weakened in individuals with shoulder impingement. To perform this exercise, lie on your side with your affected arm on top. Bend your elbow to 90 degrees and keep it close to your body. Use a small weight or resistance band to externally rotate your arm away from your body, then slowly lower it. Repeat for 10 repetitions on each side.
Remember to start with light weights or resistance and gradually increase as your strength improves. If you experience any pain or discomfort, stop the exercise and consult your healthcare provider.
In addition to strengthening exercises, stretching and mobilizing the shoulder joint is important to improve range of motion. Here are some stretches and mobility exercises you can try:
- Doorway stretch: Stand in a doorway and place your hands on either side of the frame at shoulder height. Lean forward, stretching your chest and shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds.
- Wall angels: Stand with your back against a wall and raise your arms overhead, keeping your elbows and wrists against the wall. Slowly lower your arms down, maintaining contact with the wall. Repeat for 10 repetitions.
- Shoulder circles: Stand with your arms at your sides and slowly rotate your shoulders in a circular motion, first forward, then backward. Repeat for 10 repetitions in each direction.
It’s also important to avoid any activities that involve reaching behind you, such as grabbing something out of the back seat of your car while driving. These movements can exacerbate shoulder impingement and should be avoided.
Maintaining Overall Fitness
Finally, maintaining overall fitness and following an anti-inflammatory diet can help to reduce pain and inflammation in the shoulder joint. Incorporate cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility work into your fitness routine to keep your body healthy and strong. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, most days of the week.
Eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help reduce inflammation and promote healing. Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and foods high in saturated and trans fats, as these can exacerbate inflammation.
In conclusion, exercises can be an effective way to alleviate shoulder impingement and prevent future occurrences. By incorporating these exercises into your routine, along with stretches and mobility work, you can strengthen the muscles that support the shoulder joint and improve range of motion. Remember to start slowly and consult your healthcare provider if you experience any pain or discomfort. By maintaining overall fitness and following an anti-inflammatory diet, you can reduce pain and inflammation in the body and promote healing.