Keep Your Shoulders LYMBR Without Limitations

Keep Your Shoulders LYMBR Without Limitations

Frozen shoulder – if you’ve ever had it, you know how debilitating it can be. You may feel fine one day, then the next you attempt to put on your coat and you can’t reach behind your back without pain and stiffness.

Frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis, is a musculoskeletal condition that causes pain, stiffness, and limits the range of motion in the shoulder, making it difficult to elevate your arm, and decreasing the external rotation of your shoulder. This condition can greatly limit your ability to play your favorite sport like golf or tennis, limit your ability to practice yoga or workout at the gym, and just as importantly, limit your ability to perform simple daily tasks like putting on your coat, reaching up high to put something away, or even washing your back.

The exact incidence and prevalence of frozen shoulder is unknown, but it affects approximately 2% to 5% of the general population and mainly adults 40-65 years of age, with more cases appearing in women. The condition usually starts with one shoulder and commonly affects the opposing side years after the onset of symptoms in the first shoulder, but it does not affect the same shoulder twice.

Performing stretches on the isolated muscle is crucial to gaining and maintaining normal range of motion of the shoulder joint. We focus on the four rotator cuff muscles that surround the shoulder joint. But there are other muscles associated with shoulder elevation and rotation that are often overlooked and must be stretched as well. Some neck muscles like the Trapezius and Levator will be stiff on the same side of the affected shoulder. Also, part of the back muscles like the upper Latissimus play a role in shoulder rotation and depression of the shoulder. Stretching these areas as well will increase greater range of motion rather than focusing solely on stretching the shoulder joint muscles.

There are regression and progression stretches that can be executed depending on the severity of the frozen shoulder. Since the condition can affect both shoulders, our practice is to stretch both sides.

While it may be tempting strictly from a comfort standpoint, one thing to avoid is decreasing shoulder movement in the affected shoulder. Consistent stretching and strengthening exercises can get you to use more of the shoulder and greatly benefit in improving range of motion and thawing out that frozen shoulder.

Cold Days, Stiff Bodies

Cold Days, Stiff Bodies

As the cold days of winter start to add up, you may start to notice pain and discomfort in your body. This is a natural and very common occurrence this time of year. When our bodies start to get cold, the first thing we do is hike up our shoulders, round our back and bury our chin. Even while sleeping, we curl into a ball in hopes that we will get that satisfying warmth. And chances are, you are not moving as much as you do in warmer weather.

In colder weather, our nervous system activates changes within our bodies to help regulate body temperature. Vasoconstriction occurs, where muscles tighten to constrict blood vessels throughout the body. Less heat reaches the surface of our bodies and in turn our core temperature can remain steady for our vital organs (Homeostasis).

Our bodies adapt to the positions that they are put in and the conditions they are exposed to. Over time, our muscles will shorten and become stiff.

Having a rounded back and shoulders, along with a protruded chin places a lot of stress on the upper back and shoulders. Stretching the muscles in the neck, upper back and shoulders which all support the cervical and thoracic portion of the spine, provide a lot of relief. Muscles like the trapezius, levator scapula, sternocleidomastoid, and rhomboids. These muscles are also very important for maintaining proper posture. After having these muscles stretched, people often feel taller and more open, and feel relief from pain and stiffness.

Temperature plays an important role in the way your muscles contract. It’s a lot more difficult for muscles to contract in cold weather as opposed to warmer conditions. The temperature affects how easily oxygen is released from hemoglobin to the muscle. In colder weather, the rate that oxygen is released is slower. Which means there is less oxygen available for the muscle, causing the muscle contraction to be difficult. This is where stiffness is felt. Oxygen intake is very important, as it is what fuels the muscle.

By regularly stretching with good form, you are promoting efficient blood circulation. The circulating blood provides oxygenated rich blood and nutrients to the muscle. This fresh blood is what is needed for the muscle to have proper function, strength, and flexibility.

Another way to increase your oxygen intake is to get more exercise. Be sure to warm up with active stretches and movements first. Injuries like muscle strains happen more often while exercising with cold muscles. Active stretching helps blood circulation to the muscles and warms them up.

Let’s continue to stay active and avoid poor movement patterns in the upcoming winter months. This can be achieved by warming up before exercise and properly stretching. Stay warm and BeLYMBR!

Written by, Michael Eaton. Michael is a Stretch Therapist and Asst Manager in our Darien, CT studio.