Tired of the same ol’ shoulder pain blogs that all say the same thing but isn’t helping you? Good news! Today I’ll take you on a different route that will hopefully solve your pain.
The term shoulder pain is very vague; it could mean any issue within the general area of the shoulder. The number one thought from practitioners when we hear “shoulder pain” is to look at/or around the “ball and socket” joint. This is the area where you start hearing diagnoses like rotator cuff tear, tendonitis, bursitis, blah blah blah… or around the collarbone area where you start hearing the diagnoses of AC joint, SC joint dysfunction, yada yada yada… But those aren’t the areas around the shoulder that are bothering you. Your area of pain is the spot in between your spine and shoulder blade that will not go away no matter what you do. This blog is for you! Let’s get to it.
There is another joint that is made between your shoulder blade and rib cage. This joint is called your Scapulothoracic joint. This joint is different from your typical “ball and socket” joint in the fact that it glides instead of going in all directions. There are 2 primary things that can cause some disturbance to this joint: one, the muscles around that joint are weak and/or two, the mobility of your mid-back (thoracic spine) is decreased.
Today, I will be talking about the decreased mobility of the thoracic spine and how to treat that because that is the least talked about. Whenever your thoracic spine mobility is decreased, the muscles around the area begin to become overworked and become painful. These are 6 exercises you can perform at home to help with your condition:
1. Sidelying Open Books – Lay on a flat surface on your side with your knees bent on top each other and arms out straight ahead of you (palms touching). Now begin twisting your upper body and following your top hand with your nose while keeping the bottom arm where it is. Go as far as you can go without pain in a controlled manner
2. Thread the Needle – Begin on all fours, now reach across your body (under belly) as far as you can while twisting your torso without pain. Now, return to the starting position. Perform 10 times each side.
3. 1/2 Foam Stretch (vertical) – Get a towel and roll it up “hotdog” style. Place it along your spine while you lay flat on your back on a firm surface. Bend knees up and put hands behind your head. Relax and stretch for 1 min.
4. 1/2 Foam Stretch (horizontal) – Same as above, but put a towel along your shoulder blades. Relax and stretch for 1 min.
5. Chair Twists – Just like those school desk chair back cracks, except without the aggressiveness. Literally sit in a chair (preferably with armrests, but if not turn the chair to side so backrest is either to your left or right) and twist your upper-body in a pain-free range and hold. Do this for 1 min each way.
6. Thoracic Extension – Using a chair with a backrest where the top reaches your shoulder blades, put hands behind your neck and elbows as close as possible. Now extend your trunk up while maintaining the same head/neck alignment as far as you can with no pain and pause for a 3 second count. Then return to the starting position. Repeat this 10 times.
There you have it folks! If these exercises help with your condition, great! Feel free to buy me a beer. If not or if you have any other questions/ailments, feel free to contact our team at Jones Physical Therapy. Hope this helped!
Garrett Dinicola, PT, DPT