A global approach to shoulder dysfunction

Posted by Chris Weddell on 11 November 2014

A global approach to shoulder dysfunction

It seems to me that people have shoulder and arm problems more than ever; I am regularly treating people with shoulder complaints. It’s hard to generalize what is causing this ever increasing shoulder dysfunction, but I think it can be some what related on our increasing sedentary lifestyle. I have talked about in the past as the main cause of poor posture. To simplify this so it is easy to understand how overall posture has a HUGE roll in more isolated areas of dysfunction and pain and for this article in particular the shoulder. In the general population you find that most people have varied intensities shoulder imbalances caused by the shoulder not being in the proper position, this means some muscles are going to be very short /tight and strong, and others long and weak. This combination makes it very hard for the body to create reflex motor control (stability) for joint integrity and overall movement function. 

So when you get a sore shoulder don’t think it is purely a shoulder problem, look into your posture a bit more, are you sitting a lot? Do you type on a computer in a slouched position (this promotes a shoulder imbalance, forward and internally rotated with a rounded back). However the body is pretty good at working around these imbalances without giving too much of a problem, it’s not until you try physical activity that your body fights back. E.g. your working out at the gym doing some pull ups, a demanding exercise for even the most accomplished athletes, if your postures poor to start with, think what the bodies going to do if you pull up from a position of imbalance (shoulders forward, rounded tight back), if your shoulders could speak I think they would say what the bloody hells going on?  Don’t do that where working overtime with your poor posture, now you’re going and doing this!!  So the muscles that are overloaded have no choice but to produce pain to stop you from causing any further damage.

Now the question is how we treat shoulder dysfunction with a more global approach? It is very easy when treating someone (or self treatment) to chase pain! But looking at what I have just talked about do you think this would fix the problem and stop it coming back? I think not…  I really like the way Kelly Starrett approaches this he simple says” if its not in the right place, then put it in the right place” very simple philosophy, but not always easy to administer. Taking this into account if your shoulders aren’t in a good position to start with, work on getting them there, more importantly if your spine isn’t in the right position, you guessed it, get it there, and the same for the hips. This should be the first port of call for most people, because if you add strength to dysfunction, it almost always gets worse!

 I have attached a video of some simple shoulder fixes that I find effective for improving shoulder function; I will add another video in the up coming weeks which will incorporate the thoracic spine.

 By all means if you have chronic shoulder pain seek professional advice/treatment