Looking At Shoulder Pain (Part I)

Dec 07, 2016
Tagged with: Looking At Shoulder Pain (Part I)

Shoulder pain is a serious health issue for people who use wheelchairs – some studies show a prevalence as high as 70%! And too often this pain, or the fear of causing this pain, limits participation in an exercise program. As a physical therapist, I often hear “I don’t exercise because I don’t want to hurt my shoulders” or “my shoulders hurt and I don’t want to do more breakdown or cause more pain.” I understand this. It is very natural to avoid pain. But we have to take a step back and look at the cause of the pain.

And when you are in a seated position, you are reaching far more often and increasing the risk of injury. So if you are a wheelchair user it is possible that using the shoulder joint and muscles beyond the intended demand is unavoidable.

Pain is exacerbated by muscular imbalances. If you spend all day pushing your wheelchair and lifting to transfer your body, it is clear that all the muscles used to push are getting stronger. Muscles can also get tight. These muscles attach to the shoulder blade, and pull it forward as they shorten. The joint space between the humerus and shoulder blade is small. This joint space is where the tendons of the rotator cuff, the nerves to the arm, and blood vessels pass. The smaller space means that all of these structures are rubbing against each other and as well as the bone. Keeping that joint space as big as possible will decrease pain. Stretching the muscles used for pushing every day is crucial! Stretch your pecs and open the chest! It’s also important to stretch the biceps – even those these are pulling muscles, they attach to that shoulder blade and get tight and short.

Here are two stretches to do start doing daily:

Doorway Stretch #1: Pectoralis Major

– Put your arm at a right angle on the door frame

– Slowly turn your chair away from the frame until you feel a slight stretch in the front of your shoulder

– Hold for 1–2 minutes

Doorway Stretch #2: Biceps

– Put your outstretched arm onto the door frame below the level of your shoulder

– Lean forward or turn your chair away from your arm until you feel a slight stretch down the arm

– Hold for 1–2 minutes




Author: Kristin Mcnealus

  • bobl07

    This is a very serious topics since I have been playing wheelchair sports for over 20 years. One thing that also needs to be mentioned is the importance of diet. Also, I would suggests Aquatic message therapy in either the offseason or as supplement to exercising for wheelchair users. Aquatic message therapy is the best exercises with the less stress to muscles since it takes gravity out of the equation.