Fitness · Health

Shoulder Exercises:
Key Tips to Prevent Shoulder Injury

Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

Women in mid-life are more likely to develop shoulder problems, which can be minor or serious. Last week we discussed the cause of many shoulder injuries and the conditions that cause restriction of movement and pain in the shoulder. Shoulder injuries most commonly occur during sports activities, exercise without proper form or with the use of weights that are too heavy, along with work-related tasks or projects around the home. Poor posture, muscular weakness, or ligament injury can lead to abnormal biomechanics of the shoulder, which can result in abnormal forces in the shoulder. Over time these abnormal forces can cause injury to the soft tissues or the articular cartilage of the glenohumeral joint.

The shoulder joints move every time you move your arms. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint with three main bones: the upper arm bone (humerus), collarbone (clavicle), and shoulder blade (scapula). These bones are held together by muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The shoulder joint has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the body. Because of this mobility, the shoulder is more likely to be injured or cause problems. The Acromioclavicular (AC) joint, which lies over the top of the shoulder, is also easily injured. The muscles of the shoulder complex provide stability and movement. During shoulder movements such as lifting, certain muscle groups help to move the shoulder, while other muscle groups help to stabilize the shoulder complex. Much of the stability in the shoulder complex is provided by this muscular coordination.

This week, Jonathan Urla, a member of our Medical Advisory Board, teaches us the fundamental shoulder exercises that can prevent many shoulder injuries.

—Dr. Patricia Allen

By Jonathan Urla

Many people walk around with their shoulders elevated and tense. Perhaps you yourself have noticed that you carry some serious tension up there, but you’ve almost gotten used to the discomfort. Tension, misalignment, and dysfunction in the shoulders are quite common and can eventually lead to debilitating conditions of the shoulder, such as frozen shoulder, impingement, and rotator cuff injury. If you experience any sharp pain when you lift your arm over your head, you could have one of these conditions and you should see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Even without any injury or stiffness in the shoulders, most people don’t know how to properly stabilize the shoulder girdle and strengthen the muscles so that their shoulders will be healthy and less prone to injury when they exercise and do recreational activities. The reality is that whenever we use our upper bodies to do something, it will invariably involve the shoulder joint and musculature. Learning to relax your shoulders is the first step, and then doing a balanced set of exercises that enhances the structural integrity of the shoulders will help to make them move and feel better.

These first two exercises will help to loosen and relax your shoulders as well as allow you to see how mobile your shoulders currently are.

A. Shoulder Circles: Stand in front of a mirror and push your shoulders forward, then up as high as you can, then back, and finish in neutral again. Take full breaths as you do four big shoulder circles in one direction, and then reverse the circles. Look for full range of motion and for keeping the arms straight. Note: its normal to hear some clicking in your shoulders as you move them around.



B. Arm Reaches with Shrugs: Reach your right arm up toward the ceiling. Keep it up and shrug your right shoulder up and down four times. Each time you bring your shoulder back down, feel your shoulder blade lower down your back and your arm plug back into your shoulder socket. Lower the arm and repeat with the left arm.



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