How many of you have a nagging shoulder problem? How many of you have 1 shoulder that is just constantly niggling and not feeling quite right, or feels restricted compared to the other side? How many of you have had someone look at this shoulder and treat it but the problem hasn’t ever gone away?
Well what if I told that if you answer yes to a number of the above questions that it may not be a direct shoulder problem at all!
In a recent NKT study group that I was running recently on the topic of the shoulder one of the attendees related an old shoulder injury from a skiing accident a number of years ago. While his shoulder was significantly better than it was post accident it was still significantly restricted compared to this non-injured side. In fact it was particularly restricted in rotation (think the rotator cuff which is a common area for problems), and in abduction (lifting the arm out to the side all the way to above your head). He had received treatment from a number of people who had all focused on the movement of the glenohumeral joint and shoulder blade mechanics but this only improved the problem to a point and then he kept hitting a glass ceiling.
The shoulder is a complex joint, as it in fact is made up of a number of joints. There is the scapulo-thoracic joint (think shoulder blade) which is where most therapists will consider the most important place to go looking for problems. There is the glenohumeral joint which is where the arm bone (humerus) sits in the shallow socket of the shoulder. There is the acromioclavicular (or AC) joint which is where the high point of the scapula and the lateral part of the collar bone (clavicle) meet – it is rare to get problems here unless there has been an impact injury. And last, but by no means least, and in fact perhaps the most important, and often forgotten “shoulder” joint, is the sternoclavicular (SC) joint which is where the breastbone, first rib, and collar bone meet.
If the SC joint is unstable or the muscles are tight and restricted in this area then this has the potential to mess up the function of the 3 other shoulder joints such is its importance. The muscles that attach here control shoulder girdle depression as well as neck movement so if they become restricted they will limit the movement at the other joints as the collarbone isn’t able to move as freely as it needs to be able to do. Even if there is no restriction then if you are unable to stabilise this joint then this will lead to problems. Anything that involves you rotating side to side (like walking) requires you to transmit force through this joint. So while you will likely only notice that your shoulder isn’t as free as the other one this problem may well stem from the SC joint and not the glenohumeral or scapulo-thoracic joint which is where you feel it.
In the case of the man whose shoulder problem was still around years later we found that it was the SC joint that was the problem, and particularly a muscle called the subclavius. When we had worked on the issue and resolved it his abduction went from restricted to almost completely unrestricted for the first time in years.
So if you are having shoulder problems that keep coming back it could well be because you have an underlying SC joint problem so get it checked out.
If you have ongoing shoulder niggles then get in contact to see if we can help you. We probably can and if we can’t we’ll tell you!