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Care of the Shoulders

Updated on May 7, 2010

Hiking West Rock Ridge

Hiking with legs only.
Hiking with legs only.

Our shoulders should work.

I'm not a health professional. I'm a senior with a lesson to share. I have discovered through much pain that my shoulders need to work harder. Oh, I have seen people hiking with sticks like ski poles, walking along using arms and legs. I thought, That's not for me! I use my shoulders in other ways. Right now I just want to enjoy hiking.

Silly me! My shoulders have practically shut down. This is called frozen shoulders. Only intensive chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, and exercise can unlock them. I don't want this to happen to you.

You could assess your shoulder use and range of motion by answering a few quesions. When was the last time you crawled on hands and knees? hit a softball or tennis ball? swam using the crawl? threw a ball overhand? hung by your hands? danced using hands and arms? or climbed a tree? In most adult activities of today your range of motion may be limited to a small part of the actual ability of your shoulders. Driving a car, sitting at a desk, shopping for groceries, reading, watching videos--these activities all occur within a narrow range of shoulder motion. In fact, it has been noted that sitting during much of each day is a recent shift from the many centuries when most of our waking hours were spend standing and moving about--hunting, foraging, farming, making bread. My farming parents never had to worry about exercise. They had plenty of that from quite a range of activities, feeding chickens, planting beans, forking loose hay onto a poled truck bed. Compared to their lives, mine seems quite soft and limited.

I have been learning to add a few exercises to my usual routine. I was already hiking and swimming (the side stroke) and doing some yoga. But I was not challenging my shoulders until I started moving my arms outside these routines. Here are a few good ones I have collected from friends and professionals.

Begin by shrugging your shoulders and relaxing them a few times.

Put your palms on your neck and move your elbows in to touch each other and out to the side and in again. Do each of these a few times.

Hold your arms out to the side and bring your fists in and over each other first one on top a few times and then the other.

Lift your arms straight up over your head. If you find this difficult, lie on the floor and practice lifting your arms as far over your head as you can. The floor supports your shoulders. You can also place your palm on a wall and crawl your fingers as high as you can go.

Crawl fast on hands and knees.

These are just a few suggestions. If you want professional advice, consult a chiropractor or physical therapist. You can also get the book Pain Free by Peter Egoscue. The author is very knowledgeable about posture and balance, and the book is full of helpful exercises. The list of questions above is from his chapter on shoulders.

I get up from the computer at least every hour and do some stretches and shoulders exercises. I also get regular chiropractic adjustments. Keep your body's communication channels open.

I'm getting my range of motion back. But I hope you will improve yours before your shoulders become painfully restricted. And, yes, I've added poles to my walking and hiking routine!

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