“OWW My shoulder hurts like crazy.
What the heck… I didn’t even do anything!!”
Many of us have experienced this situation. You get a sudden sharp pain in your shoulder and when you feel it, it feels like there’s a golf ball stuck just above your shoulder blade. What is going on?
Well, the lets clarify something. You absolutely did “do something” to your shoulder. From what I typically see with patients, what you did was a mix of repetitive strain activity, and inactivity. To further specify, most people who will read this, don’t actively maintain their physical health by lifting heavy things. They also have jobs where they do the same repetitive tasks, for hours at a time. Those two habits create a perfect storm of criteria for what is referred to a trigger point.
Trigger point, muscular adhesion, “knot” are all terms used for a myofascial strain. Between the various layers of muscles in the body, there is a layer of fascia. I’ve discussed this substance before. What is going on in this situation is that your body is telling you to stop doing what you’re doing.
At any particular moment, hundreds of thousands of people across America are currently sitting at a desk, leaned forward, the monitor not straight in front of them, and the phone probably off to the side of their dominant hand. Throughout the day, you slowly lose the fight with gravity and roll your shoulders forward. (strike 1) You’ve answered your phone countless times, and while you were talking, you raised your shoulder to hold it, while you typed something out, or scrolled Facebook and tried to pay attention to the caller. (strike 2 for the shoulder, strike 1 for the attention span)
These activities have pre-primed the shoulder to be already minorly strained. The muscle is held in a semi-contracted state for WAY longer than it likes to be. Across the back of the shoulder, the trapezius is mean to contract and pull the shoulder upwards. The supraspinatus (sits just under the trapezius) acts to pull the shoulder posterior (backwards) toward the center of the spine. Both of these actions are meant to be completed and stopped. Not held at a “half flexed” state for a long period of time.
If this “perfect storm” was conducted once, you’d never even notice because your shoulder wouldn’t over-react…. Instead, many of us do these type of activities for hours at a time, every day. Primary moving muscles are meant to contract and then relax. Lift something heavy, and put it back down. Not lift something heavy and hold it for hours. This behavior causes damage to the muscle fibers, called myofibrils. If these fibers break down and become damaged, they can irritate the fascia between the muscle layers. This irritation can cause localized inflammation to increase and cause the muscle to “harden”. Once the muscle becomes harder with fibrous scar tissue, it becomes resistant to moving in its normal pattern. As soon as you tell the muscle to move in the manner it should, and it can’t as easily, that produces more inflammation and pain. That pain is your body telling you something has gone wrong and you need to stop doing it. Since you didn’t listen the first time it hurt, there’s a good chance this more significant pain will now get covered up with Over the Counter (OTC) medicine. This article isn’t recommending you do this, this is simply the habit of many people. This isn’t wrong, but it isn’t ideal.
The problem is that the muscle hurts, but the original problem isn’t that the muscle hurts, it’s the actions that caused the muscle to hurt. Without addressing that problem, then it will, with absolute certainty, return.
The first point that needs to be identified is the faulty movement that caused the original pain. This pattern of thought applies to not only painful muscles, but to most major problems we face as civilized humans. High blood pressure is a symptom. Type 2 diabetes is a disease, but it is also a symptom. What are they symptoms of? Faulty eating, and poor moving habits. Recognizing and correcting the initial occurrence solves many of the problems that will be caused down the line.
As a clinician, this typically involves resolving the primary pain generator first, but if care doesn’t extend to correcting the habits, then the care for that pain generator cannot actually end. The pain might move, but it will always come back.
When you’re ready to address the problem, contact a health provider that addresses the source, as well as the symptoms. Healthcare teams are ideal for your recovery. Treating the symptom will make your life generally better, but won’t resolve the problem. You also need a provider to treat the symptom, or the issue will remain. Good thing you’re on this page! Dr. Herrington is just the “source treating” doctor you’re looking for! By practicing with a holistic method, the entire body is taken into consideration, and the source of the problem is addressed. Call 716-308-2881 to schedule your appointment now!