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March 04, 2021  
SHOULDER NEWS: Feature Story

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  • The Delicate Joint

    The Delicate Joint

    November 17, 2005

    Part One

    By: Jean Johnson for Shoulder1

    “Your back bone’s connected to your shoulder bone. Now hear the Word of the Lord!”

    We don’t mean to get preachy or pretend that we have a pipeline to the goddesses, but we couldn’t resist this line from the old song “Dry Bones.” Also, anyone who has ever suffered from shoulder problems will probably agree that they wish they’d attended to the Word of the Lord or the goddesses or whatever their divine power is a bit more carefully.
    Learn More
    Rotator Cuff Injuries: The Facts

    People are at a higher risk if they are in old age, have poor posture or have weak shoulder muscles.

    Some signs that you may have a rotator cuff injury are: Pain when moving shoulder or sleeping on it, weakness in the shoulder, tenderness in the shoulder and limited ability to move the shoulder.

    Symptoms for rotator cuff injuries can occur immediately after an injury or develop gradually over time.

    Some causes for a rotator cuff injury are linked to tendonitis, the rotator cuff being pinched between a joint and a bone, or strains and tears in the muscles and tendons that make up the rotator cuff.

    Indeed, we are so accustomed to living in our bodies and using our shoulders to heave-ho that we tend to take the ingenious construction of this joint for granted. The truth is, though, that the shoulder is a distinctive joint that fosters a full range of motion.

    Think about it. What other joint in the body does what the shoulder can do? Extend out in front and over head. Reach high out to the side and then back the other direction across the chest. Finally the shoulder joint allows us to reach behind and permit our fingers to creep up midway and higher on the spine to nail that persistent, little itch.

    The shoulder is definitely a worker. And the way it pulls that feat off is by being rather loosely constructed. Hence, our need to treat the joint with an “easy does it all the way” philosophy. Theories are great, but in practice we yank and pull and heave. Just let a sticky cupboard or stubborn weed get in our way when we’re the least bit of a hurry, and it’s the good old shoulder that picks up the slack – or we should say stress and downright strain.

    One way of promoting good shoulder health, then, is to simply be mindful of the treasure we have and treat it accordingly. Another is to strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint so that it will better stand up to the daily chores of living not to mention a winter ski vacation in the Alps or even the good ole’ Rockies.

    Shoulder Short Course

    We won’t go full bore here, but some basic understanding of the how the joint is put together goes a long way for keeping it in good working order. As far as bones in the shoulder or pectoral girdle, there are only four – two scapulae or shoulder blades and two collarbones or clavicles. The arm bones or humerus hook up there as well, of course, to make for six if you want to be technically correct.

    When we think of a girdle, a picture of something that binds in a complete circle comes to mind. The shoulder girdle, however, is separated by the sternum or breast bone in front, and the shoulder blades give the spine plenty of room for its action in the rear. Still, this rather loosely constructed shoulder girdle is the critical framework that provides attachment places for all the muscles that allow movement.

    In short, being mindful that the bony foundation underlying the shoulder is a delicate, tenuous structure can help foster the idea that it is critical to keep the musculature up to speed.

    Working with a weak shoulder

    “I guess I injured my rotator cuff,” said Beth Beggs of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “We like to eat down here, and my late mother got really big when she was older. Getting her out of my little car took some real doing, even though I always tried to keep my knees bent so my legs could help lift her.”

    Beggs tenders her shoulder as she remembers back to one summer afternoon. “I was taking her in for a permanent, and there we were on a busy street with cars flying by and her half in and half out. Stuck basically. I could have gotten help, but it was hot and I thought I could do it by myself. So I just put my arms around her as far as I could reach and gave it everything I had.”

    Everything turned out to be more than she had, and Beggs felt her shoulder go immediately. “It could have been worse because I’m in pretty good shape and workout all the time, but it went, that’s for sure. I could tell. It was sore right away, and it didn’t go away either. I tried to go back to my aerobics and yoga classes, but moves like shoulder presses and downward dog really got to me.”

    There was a reason for that, so one of the trainers at the club Beggs enlisted to help told her – reasons that mirror the research we’ve done a Once the shoulder is stressed and injured, playing through the pain only worsens the problem. What’s needed instead is to not aggravate the shoulder any further, and instead, work on exercises that specifically strength the muscles surrounding the joint.

    To find out how Begg’s shoulder rehabilitation story turned out, look for Part 2 of: The Delicate Joint.

    Continued in Part Two

    Last updated: 17-Nov-05


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