In everyday life, your shoulder gets a real workout. It moves just about every time you do. You use it for lifting, reaching, or even throwing a ball. You can grab something high or pick something off the ground.
You can do all these things because a healthy shoulder has a great range of motion, and that’s a good thing. But all that movement means there are more ways for you to get hurt. The shoulder is the body’s most injured joint.
The most common problems come from repeating the same movement over and over again, and from too much arm motion above your head (like painting or hanging curtains).
But your shoulder can get hurt in other ways too:
- Age. Natural wear and tear that comes with age can damage your shoulder.
- Osteoarthritis. The cartilage (tough rubbery padding) that protects your joints wears down.
- Rotator cuff damage. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that keeps your shoulder together.
- Bursitis. The fluid-filled pads that cushion your joints get swollen.
- Dislocation. Your upper arm bone comes out of the shoulder (it normally fits like a socket). This can hurt a lot.
- Frozen shoulder. The capsule of connective tissue that holds your shoulder together thickens and tightens around the joint, restricting its movement.
The good news is that shoulder problems often can be fixed without surgery. Still, it’s best to avoid the problem in the first place. Here are some ways to do that.
Listen to your body. If your shoulder gets sore after any activity, don’t ignore it. If the pain is serious and doesn’t go away, see your doctor. There’s no need to tough it out. You just might make things worse.
Stay in shape. Keep your body in good physical shape with regular exercise and a healthy diet. It’s a way to stay well and it can help you avoid injury.
Exercise the right way. Warm up before you work out. Start slowly if you haven’t done a sport or an activity in a while. Learn how to lift weights the right way. Don’t lift too much.
Watch out at work. Make sure you don’t injure your shoulder on the job.
- Use good posture when you sit or stand.
- Follow the rules for safe lifting. Keep your back straight and use your legs.
- Take a break for a couple of minutes every hour. Move around and stretch.
- If you work at a desk, make sure your work station is set up so that you can comfortably use your computer.
Don’t strain to reach what you need. Use a step stool if you have to reach high places. Put the items you use in drawers or on lower shelves.
If you do hurt your shoulder, these things should help you feel better:
- Rest and ice are key. Apply ice every few hours.
- Ask your doctor if you can take over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
- If your doctor suggests physical therapy, make sure you do it.
- Don’t wear a sling. You want to keep your arm free to move. Just don’t overdo it.