Shoulder pain with reaching overhead is a complicated and often misunderstood issue. People will begin to compensate by using the other arm, changing where objects are located, or simply not trying to reach overhead. While these substitutions can be helpful during the initial painful phase, these are not solid long term strategies to live your life by.
If you have ever been told “Well, just stop reaching overhead and everything will be fine” keep reading!
The most common cause of shoulder pain when reaching overhead is shoulder impingement, which is a space issue. You see, the acromion (bony sticky-outy part) comes off the shoulder blade and forms the roof. The humeral head (the big, long arm bone) forms the floor. There are some ligaments in the front that form the sides. So, there is limited space due to bony and ligament limitations. Now, going through this space you have tendons (attaches muscle to bone), bursa (fluid filled sacks), and the joint capsule that is surrounding that humeral head. One wrong movement in that limited space and something can get pinched. OW! That pinching may lead to inflammation which makes the tendon/bursa/capsule puff up = more stuff in the same limited space! This increases the chances of the pinching happening again the next time you lift your arm overhead.
Now, some people have the pinch happen once, are able to “rub it out”, and never have that problem again. This is ideal! But, for people who continue to suffer from pain after 3-5 days, there may be a further problem. Some people may have their shoulder blade sitting in the wrong spot due to prolonged computer use. Others may have started a heavy weight lifting program and have too much stress on the joint or improper form. Someone else might have a muscular imbalance between their front and back muscles. These issues can all put the bones in the wrong place and further decrease that space causing further pinching, pain, and inflammation. This is when a complete evaluation is required of not only the painful structure but the entire upper body to see if there are other contributing factors.
If you suffer from shoulder pain or find yourself limiting your activities due to pain/loss of motion, we can help! Please contact Amy at (360)367-0970 so we can discuss your BODY.