Older man with Shoulder Pain

OUCH! My shoulder hurts! What happened?

Did I sleep on it “wrong?”

Each of us has times when parts of ourselves hurt.  Maybe we know what caused the discomfort or pain. Maybe we don’t. Maybe we have some go-to movement remedies that work.  Or maybe we think, “if I can just stretch this out . . . “ And maybe that works, and maybe it doesn’t.

What to do next? Ask yourself some questions.

Could I do less?
• Is it possible to move slower and in a smaller range?
• Could I use less effort, focusing on making a small movement easy, without “recruiting” my usual approach?

Could more of me participate?
• Am I holding my breath?
• Could I relax my eyes?
• Is my jaw tensing or is it relaxed?
• Might I ask some “neighbors” to help? For example, in lifting an arm up to the ceiling, could the rib case neighbors help?
• What about my way of standing (or sitting) – am I really using the support of my skeleton?
• Would shifting my weight on my legs or sitting bones be useful?
• Where am I looking? Maybe my eyes could help.

How might I support or take over the movement? 
• Could my hands help by taking over some of the movement?
For example, using the heels of the hands or fists on each side of the lower spine to press inward and guide the tissues upward to manually “shorten” overworking back muscles.  Click here and then scroll down for “Hands Release the Back” audio lesson on this topic.
• Could my hands support or add to the movement?
In raising the arm, the opposite hand could softly “lift” the ribs underneath the lifting arm on the way up and gently guide the ribs on the way down.  Click here and then scroll down for “Raise an Arm: Support and Resist” audio lesson on this topic.
• Could a bit of resistance open up freer movement?
Again in the lifting arm example, the hands could hold the ribs in place as the arm lifts, clarifying the resistance that may be part of the problematic pattern or because you’ve added some the resistance in the ribs, inviting other parts of the shoulder girdle or back “to the dance”. The resistance can also be applied in lowering.  Click here and then scroll down for “Raise an Arm: Support and Resist” audio lesson on this topic.

• Is there a way to move passively?
Naturally, someone else doing the movement of lifting your arm or bending your knee comes to mind. But you can stand at  a wall, feet crossed with one knee directly behind the other. Let the back leg and knee passively bend the forward, less comfortable knee and incorporate some of the above movement ideas as you repeat it many times.

Could I reverse the “moving” and “stable” parts?
• Is a smaller part moving in relation to a bigger part?
For instance, when you lift your shoulder toward your ear, your head stays more or less where it is in space. Maybe there is discomfort in this habitual pattern.

• Could the relationship change?
Instead of lifting the shoulder toward your ear, could the ear move toward the shoulder? (remember all of the above about small, less effort, etc). A recent class focused on moving the pelvis around the hip joint; many applications of this principle exist.

Can I give myself the same care and understanding I would give a friend or family member with this difficulty?
• Must I keep “testing” or “pushing” to see it things have improved?
• Can I postpone, figure out a work-around, or even ask for help?
• How vividly and completely could I imagine or visualize the movement?

Hopefully by trying a few of these suggestions, you’ll begin to feel better and move more comfortably.  Give it a little time.

In Trouble? Twenty Questions to Explore
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