De-Mystifying Shoulder Pain

"Richard" was a tall, young athletic man who worked long hours as a computer consultant. He suffered a rotator cuff injury years ago in a car accident. This left him with chronic shoulder pain even after months of physical therapy, massage, and medical treatment. He said that he had never felt the same since and, despite the fact that he was only 38-years-old, he was beginning to think that he was just "getting old." His daily computer usage only made his already painful right shoulder - the side on which he used the computer mouse - tighter than ever. He was close to developing a "frozen shoulder." The truth was that his shoulder wasn't frozen - the center of his body was! The shoulder joint isn't just the joint itself; the muscles that move and stabilize the shoulder and coordinate synergistically with the shoulder insert into the center of the body. When you learn to release and relax the center of the body, movement in the periphery (the shoulder) will improve.

Richard was motivated to figure out how to reverse his shoulder pain and regain control of his muscles for two reasons: he had been physically active before his injury, and he had a six-month-old baby he wanted to hold without experiencing pain.

Accidents can cause accumulated muscle tension throughout the entire body.

I wasn't surprised that Richard's right side was so tight; he'd had several car accidents, one in which he flipped his car and hit a tree. He had also fractured his left leg in a sports accident without realizing it and had continued to play, compensating strongly with his right side. His right side had been accumulating muscle tension for a long time before his shoulder injury became apparent. His brain had done an efficient work-around; he was so used to using muscles he didn't need in order to move while those that should have been moving his shoulder were so tightly contracted that he couldn't release, nor control them.

Muscles learn to stay tight, so they can learn to relax.

In our first session, I taught Richard to relax the deep muscles of the back of his body (the Green Light muscles), including the muscles of the shoulder: the upper trapezius, rhomboids and lower trapezius. I taught him to pandiculate these muscles, so that his brain took back voluntary control of muscles that had been involuntarily contracted.

After the session Richard was amazed at how much better his shoulder felt and how much more movement he now had after doing such simple movements. I sent him home with four basic exercises to do daily to reinforce the new and different range of motion that he had achieved.

Relax the core for faster relief of shoulder pain.

I saw Richard for one more session in which we relaxed the core muscles of twisting and bending. He also learned to release the tight lattissimus dorsi muscle on his right side. The lattissimus is the broadest muscle of the body and while it attaches up into the front of the shoulder, it extends all the way into the center of the body. By the time he left my office his pain was completely gone. The changes he had made, using his brain to re-train his muscles, were impressive. He left my office with a huge smile on his face saying, "this work makes so much sense" and vowing to continue his daily Hanna Somatic Exercises. I look forward to not seeing Richard again for any more sessions: he now has the self-awareness and skills to take care of himself.

To learn how to relieve neck and shoulder pain on your own, you can purchase my instructional Pain-Free Neck and Shoulders DVD.