By Gina Breit, PT with Agnesian HealthCare Sports, Spine & Work Center
With winter comes the task of shoveling. Frequently many of us suffer from aches and pains associated with the awkward postures we get into when shoveling. Many common aches and pains seen in the clinic as the result of shoveling include back pain and shoulder pain. Overuse of the shoulder often leads to pain in the front of the shoulder, as well as the side of your shoulder. This pain is likely caused by inflammation of the rotator cuff tendon associated with the repetitive task of shoveling. Often this pain goes away after icing and a few days of rest. If this pain does not go away, you may want to look at your posture, and this is why.
The shoulder is a ball and socket joint, allowing for rotation and free movement of the arm. The ball is the end of the upper arm bone, and the socket is actually part of the shoulder blade. Sixty percent of the shoulder movement comes from the ball moving in the socket and the other 40 percent of the movement comes from the shoulder blade moving on the ribcage. If the shoulder blade cannot freely move on the ribcage, the upper arm bone will hit on a ridge of the shoulder blade pinching the rotator cuff between the bones, causing further inflammation and pain.
Good posture is essential to allowing the shoulder blade to move freely on the ribcage. If you are slouched forward, the shoulder blade will stay in place and not move – causing the pinching of the tendon. To better feel this, try this test: Stand tall and raise your non-painful arm forward – how high can you raise it? Next, slouch your torso forward and try to raise the same arm forward – now how high can you raise it? This little test shows how important shoulder blade movement and posture are with shoulder mobility. Therefore, if your shoulder pain is not resolving with rest, try focusing on your posture to minimize further irritation to the tendon.
If rest and working on posture for several weeks do not help resolve your pain, you may want to consult with your physician and see if physical therapy may be appropriate. In therapy, we would be able to further assess your mobility and strength to determine the best course of action to relieve your pain.