Before working as a clinical massage therapist in the physical therapy field, I had no idea how many people were walking around with shoulder pain and decreased range of motion in their shoulders. Now I find myself working on just as many shoulders as I do backs and necks. This blog post will give you the basics on shoulder pain/dysfunction and how massage therapy can help.
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint and therefore VERY mobile, and with great mobility comes the potential for great instability and dysfunction. If we sit in front of a computer all day, slouch our shoulders, and never work out our backs and the backs of our shoulders, we are asking for trouble! This is a big part of the reason so many of us have shoulder pain.
What can go wrong with the shoulder?
When should I go to the doctor?
When in doubt, get it checked out! This is a good rule of thumb. If there is any doubt that you have something seriously wrong with your shoulder, you should see a doctor, physical therapist, or athletic trainer right way. Here are some signs you should not ignore:
Can massage therapy help?
Absolutely! There are a lot of conditions in which an experienced clinical massage therapist can help you with. If you are a non-surgical candidate (meaning your doctor says you don’t need surgery, or he/she wants you to try the conservative route first), massage therapy can help. To be clear, a massage will not ‘cure’ your condition (arthritis, bursitis, tear, etc), but it can help your shoulder move and function the way it was intended and therefore relieve stress and strain on the muscles and tendons and prevent future inflammation. A clinical massage therapist can help with the following:
What if I had surgery?
If you have already had shoulder surgery, massage therapy can help, but you just need to be more careful. Make sure you have the okay from your doctor and physical therapist and that the massage therapist you are seeing has a solid understanding of your doctor’s protocol and any contraindications. Remember: Massage therapy is NOT a replacement for PT after surgery; it is a complement to your prescribed treatment.
If you have chronic shoulder pain, shoulder pain that more conventional treatment hasn’t fixed, or if you are trying the conservative route before surgery, call a clinical massage therapist and see if they can help.