A shoulder exercise and conditioning program is designed to take the stress off of overworked muscles and joints by strengthening muscles around that joint.
If you’ve ever had a shoulder injury, you know how important it is to take care of your shoulders. And if you haven’t had a shoulder injury, consider yourself lucky—and then learn how to take care of this important joint so that you never have to find out how debilitating it is to be without it.
The Shoulder Joint
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, which allows for a wide range of movement. This mobility, however, comes with a price—a lack of stability. The only attachment of the shoulder joint to the axial skeleton is with the clavicle. There is very little bone or ligament support in the shoulder joint. In fact, you can think of the shoulder joint sort of like a golf ball sitting on a golf tee—not very stable. In contrast, the hip joint is another ball-and-socket joint that can accommodate weight bearing and stress more easily.
The Importance of the Shoulder Joint
You may not give much thought to your shoulder joint—but you can’t close the trunk of your car, pick up your child, or reach for something on a shelf without using it. You need a healthy shoulder joint to perform many activities of daily living—not to mention a lot of the activities you choose for fun, such as tennis, swimming, or basketball.
Unfortunately, most people wait until they’re faced with a shoulder injury to pay any mind to the shoulder joint. Here’s the problem with that approach: shoulder injuries have a tendency to develop gradually, usually as the result of muscular deficiency. Sure, some shoulder injuries happen instantly—such as dislocations or sudden tears—but more often than not, a shoulder injury builds over time.
Want to make an orthopedic surgeon cringe? Lift a heavy object with outstretched arms.
Sling a heavy backpack over one arm. Reach for something with your thumb pointing down.
When it comes to the shoulder, your best defense is a good offense. Healthy habits are key. Here are some simple steps for taking care of your shoulders so that you can continue to do all of your favorite—and even some of your not so favorite—activities.
Preventing Shoulder Injuries
- Posture: Practice good posture when standing and seated. Keep your head over your shoulders and your shoulders down and back.
- Backpack: There are two straps for a reason. Use them. Avoid carrying a backpack or heavy bag over just one shoulder.
- Lifting: Lift and carry objects close to your body. Avoid lifting heavy objects with outstretched arms.
- Reaching: Use a stool or ladder to reduce strain on your shoulder.
- Overhead Motion: Avoid working with your arms above shoulder level for long periods of time. Take regular breaks, especially from repetitive activity.
- Thumbs Up: Keep your thumb pointing up when you reach for something with your arm.
- Healthy habits are one way to prevent shoulder injuries—but if you really want to be proactive, be sure to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the shoulder joint.
If you want to avoid being sidelined by a shoulder injury, think prehab rather than rehab. The shoulder is held together by musculature, so correct muscular development is critical. In terms of shoulder strength, most people automatically think about the deltoids and the trapezius muscles. Those muscles are important for moving big weight, but real shoulder function depends on the supporting muscles. The shoulder muscles you should get to know well are your rotator cuff muscles. A common acronym for the muscles of the rotator cuff is SITS, which stands for:
- Teres minor
A shoulder conditioning program focuses on:
- Muscle Strength: Shoulder joint stability is dependent on strengthening the muscles that support your shoulder. Strong shoulder muscles can relieve shoulder pain and prevent further injury.
- Muscle and Joint Flexibility: Range of motion is a result of stretching the muscles. Gently stretching after strengthening exercises can help reduce muscle soreness and keep your muscles long and flexible.
Target Muscles: The muscle groups targeted in this conditioning program include:
- Deltoids (front, back and over the shoulder)
- Teres muscles (supporting the shoulder joint)
- Supraspinatus (supporting the shoulder joint)
- Infraspinatus (supporting the shoulder joint)
- Subscapularis (front of shoulder)
- Trapezius muscles (upper back)
- Rhomboid muscles (upper back)
- Biceps (front of upper arm)
- Triceps (back of upper arm)
You can strengthen the appropriate muscles with a little time, little to no weight, and small movements. Want healthy shoulders for life? Start with these simple exercises:
Scapular Wall Slides: Stand with your back to the wall and maintain contact between the wall and your head, hips, and back. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees and place your forearms against the wall (think touchdown). Squeeze your shoulder blades together and slide your arms up the wall until your hands are overhead. Maintain contact with the wall the entire time.
Scapular Push-Ups: Assume a plank position. Keep your arms straight and then retract and protract the shoulder blades, allowing the chest to move up and down about 1-2 inches. This is a very small range of motion.
Shoulder Dislocates: Use a flexible band, a broomstick, or even a towel. Hold both ends with straight arms in front of your hips. Keeping your arms straight, raise them up and over—so they go behind your head and reach your hips behind your body. Then reverse the movement and bring the arms forward the way you came.
Our goal at OSMI is to provide our patients quality, cutting-edge orthopedic treatments, both surgical and non-surgical. If you have questions about a shoulder exercise and conditioning program, please submit an online appointment request or contact our office at 817-529-1900.