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Swing your arms around for a moment, raise them up high, reach around and scratch your back — all of these movements are powered by your shoulders. It would be hard to overstate the importance of healthy shoulders, so you want to keep them functioning at their very best.
The musculoskeletal experts here at Western Orthopaedics are big believers in preventive practices that help to preserve your joint health. While we’re here to help when something goes wrong in your shoulder, any steps that you take to prevent injury or disease in the first place are invaluable.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some stretches and exercises that will keep your shoulders strong and healthy.
Your shoulders are ball-and-socket joints, which are the types of joints that allow the most range of motion. Your shoulders, however, go a step further as the socket is quite shallow, which is what allows you to windmill your arms, reach behind you, and cross your arms. As a result, your shoulders are more inherently unstable.
The stability that your shoulders do enjoy relies on a host of connective tissues that hold your arm in place, including your:
In order to keep your shoulders healthy, it’s paramount that you focus on flexibility and strength in these tissues.
If you want to enjoy healthy shoulders, we want to outline a few stretches that target the connective tissues in your joint.
One of the simplest exercises are shoulder rolls, which you can execute right at your desk. Make sure your back is straight and then lift your shoulders toward your ears. With your shoulders elevated, roll them back so that your shoulder blades come together and hold for a few seconds. Next, slowly roll them back toward your ears and then move them forward and hold again for a few seconds. Repeat these rolls several times.
A great way to work on flexibility in your shoulders is through cross-arm stretches and cow-face poses.
With the first, relax your shoulders and then draw one arm across your chest and use your other arm to gently pull your arm toward your chest and hold for a few seconds. You should feel a stretch through your shoulder and upper back. Repeat the exercise with the other arm and stretch both about five times on each side.
For the cow pose, reach one arm into the air and then fold it down behind your head. Take your other arm and reach behind your back so that you can clasp the other arm. This pose takes practice and you may not be able to join hands, at first. Work slowly and alternate arms so that you stretch both shoulders.
For more shoulder-stretching exercises, click here.
While flexibility is important, you want to strengthen your shoulders, as well, which you can do with weights.
A great start is to use a small bar or kettlebell and perform arm raises — out to the side (lateral) and straight in front of you. Lift until your arm is at shoulder height and not above. Repeat these lifts 5-10 times on each arm.
With the same weights, you can now go overhead. Place weights in both hands and put your arms at 90-degree angles with the upper arm parallel to the ground at shoulder height and your forearms pointing up toward the sky (think of the, “hands in the air,” command). Now, slowly lift the weights until your arms are straight, and then bring your arms back to the original position. (Don’t let your upper arms collapse below shoulder height). Repeat this exercise slowly for 10 raises.
If you don’t have weights, you can try holding plank positions on the floor, doing pushups angled against a wall, or executing pull-ups at a bar. (Please note that these last are very difficult exercises and you should proceed with caution).
The fact is that we’re only scratching the surface when it comes to shoulder stretches and strengthening exercises, and we’re happy to help you devise a shoulder fitness plan that’s best for you.
To get started, contact one of our offices in Denver or Arvada, Colorado.