First, a quick look at the shoulder joint.
The shoulder joint,like the hip joint is a typical ball and socket joint which offers a lot of movement. A lot of movement on offer means a lot of potential for injury. With the wide range of motion,the soft tissue around the shoulder is more prone to being strained or even torn,unlike the less movable joints at the elbows and fingers. The shoulder joint is held in place by ligaments and muscles and is partially covered by the subacromial bursa – a fluid filled sac that acts as a lubricant of sorts.
Two of the most common chronic shoulder ailments – Adhesive Capsulitis (commonly referred to as frozen shoulder) and the Impingement syndrome share the following root causes:
1. The forward shoulder slouch which brings down the space inside the shoulder joint for nerves,tendons and ligaments
2. The tightening of the ligaments that surround the glenohumeral joint from the lack of use or from the add up of minor sprains and tears.
Imagine hanging on a bar. If the shoulder muscles are healthy,they will be easily able to support the entire body weight with the arms out-stretched and can let the body swing. The design of the shoulder favours such strength and movement. But of course,if the shoulder is suffering from an injury of sorts,such performance shouldn’t be expected. By performing few simple exercises on a daily basis,one can reduce the risk of experiencing shoulder pain and injuries. Here are a few.
1. The Towel Stretch
A very easy exercise and as the name suggests,all you need is a towel!Take the towel in your right hand and hold it behind your head and with your left hand,grab the other end of the towel which should now be near your lower back area. The bony side of the left hand should be against the left lower back. In this position,both hands will be able to firmly hold both the ends of the towel. Pull down slowly with your left hand till you feel a good stretch through your right shoulder. Hold this position for about 30 seconds and maintain steady breathing. Now, do the reverse. Pull up the towel slowly with the right hand to experience a stretch on the left shoulder. Hold this position for 30 seconds again and don’t stop breathing. Now this entire exercise is to be repeated,starting with the left hand this time, in the high position behind the head. This exercise benefits the ligamentous capsules which surround the shoulder joint.
2. Lat Stretch
A pole or an edge is needed which lets you clasp with the right hand and lean back with your body weight. Keep your balance by standing with bent knees in a tandem like position. If needed ,the left hand may hold on to another edge or pole to aid balance. Pull back with your body weight as if you are trying to pull your right elbow back to the right hip. Keep you arm straight and feel a nice stretch along the outside of your right trunk. The target muscle here is the Latissimus Dorsi and the rotator cuffs. Repeat this on the other side and as the former exercise, hold for 30 seconds and do maintain steady breathing.
3. The Posterior Deltoid Stretch
This fully targets the back of your shoulder region. With the left hand, pull your right arm across the front of the chest with the left forearm positioned on the back of the right arm above the right elbow. The right shoulder should be fully relaxed and be pulled with the left arm till a nice stretch is felt behind the right shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and maintain steady breathing. Repeat on the other side.
4. The Hanging Stretch
You would need a horizontal bar that you can hang from for this particular exercise. Hang from the bar for as long as it is comfortable with your shoulders spread apart. Imagine your hands to be like hooks and just dangle! Remember to breathe steadily here as well. This exercise does a remarkable job of stretching all the tendons,muscles and ligaments surrounding the shoulder joints and even the tendons of the front chest muscles. It reverses the slouch acquired from working at a desk. Bring your hands together to increase the intensity if desired. Now,if you are worried about letting your entire body weight being supported by your arms alone,there is a way around it as well! You could use a stool or platform of sorts to support some of your body weight while you hang. Over time,as you build more strength,your arms can support more of your body weight. An upgrade of this exercise would be to dangle completely with the aid of the arms alone and to swing your body slightly back and forth and even sideways.
It is most recommended that you have a discussion with your personal physician before attempting any of these exercises.