Shoulder Pain: Why Does My Shoulder Hurt When I Reach Up To The Top Cabinet?

Shoulder Pain

This is one of the most common shoulder injuries we see here in my clinic.

The shoulder has the greatest movements of all the joints in the body and the rotator cuff is a set of muscles that supports these movements.

There are only 3 ligaments in the shoulder that allow this high range of movement. However, this does come at a risk… I bet you know someone who has dislocated their shoulder?

Shoulder DiagramThe rotator cuff muscles reinforce the joint to give it a lot of support, especially in movements above the head and backwards. However these movements are the ones that, over time, cause the rotator cuff to become injured, tight and often catching on bones.

This catching feels like when you catch your finger in the door… really sharp and gets you right in the shoulder!

The muscle is called the supraspinatus and it goes from the shoulder blade to under the collar bone. It sometimes catches on the collar bone due to the muscles in the back of the shoulder being tight. There is less space under the collar bone for it to travel through.

What Causes the Shoulder to Become Tight?

Usually, there are three culprits; overhead activity, using it at work and poor posture.

Overhead activities place the shoulder in its most vulnerable position and the muscles around the shoulder tighten up to protect it. It’s okay to do once or twice but imagine what happens if you do it repeatedly over and over again!

Using your arm and shoulder at work in the same way also causes an increase in tightness in the muscles around the joint.

Posture is the one that you can improve the most. Poor posture further decreases the space under the collar bone and slouching your shoulders over works them and stretches the muscles going into the neck. A slouching posture also affects your vital core muscles, making it harder for you to keep your head up (and that’s the heaviest part of your body!).

Will it go away by itself?

Unfortunately, no. You might have days where it will feel a lot better, but it will never go away unless you change something.

What do I Need to do?

Aside from treatment, you need to stretch all of your shoulder muscles out. Stretching the muscle loosens the joint up and increases the space for your rotator cuff muscles.

Once you’re stretched, you then have to strengthen the muscles at the back of the shoulder, in between the shoulder blades, in order to pull your shoulders back and give it the vital support it needs.

Everytime you feel yourself slouching, stop and pull your shoulders back, squeezing those shoulder blades together.

Imagine you’ve got a piece of string through the top of your head pulling it towards the ceiling.

Switching your arms at work if you can will also help relieve the pressure on the shoulder and give the muscles the rest they need.

And if you want to know more, simply ask me, or see how physical therapy can help your shoulder pain here:

Click Here To Download Your Free Shoulder Pain Guide
Nick Hunter, PT, DPT
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