Shoulder injuries can be challenging to deal with, but the right course of treatment can greatly improve pain, range of motion, strength, and overall function.
The shoulder is ball and socket joint, but it’s more akin to a golf ball on a tee. This set up provides us ample mobility at the cost of stability. For most shoulder injuries, it’s all about balancing mobility and stability. When we injure the shoulder, our body reacts to protect this mobile joint. Its’ protection mechanism is to send signals to the muscles surrounding the shoulder and shoulder blade to tell them to contract and hold the ball in the socket. Unfortunately, this strategy, while effective at holding the ball in the socket, is not necessarily helpful at holding the ball in the centre of the socket. When the ball is not in the centre of the socket and the muscles around the shoulder are all turned on trying to hold things together it tends to result in pain, decreased range of motion, and weakness.
To address these issues, the first step is to stop the muscles around the shoulder and shoulder blade from firing continuously to protect the joint. Dry needling is very effective for this task. It involves inserting a sterile solid acupuncture needle into the tight bands in the muscles to cause them involuntarily contract. This contraction gives the muscle the opportunity to relax and reduces the pain signals from the muscle to the brain. This allows the muscle the opportunity to stay relaxed and learn to function properly again. Dry needling muscles around the shoulder and shoulder blade alone can significantly improve pain, range of motion, and strength.
Sadly, that’s not the end of the story because you don’t just want temporary relief, you want to maintain those gains!
Once those muscles have relaxed and the pain has subsided, they have to be retaught how to work together to hold the ball in the centre of the socket. To accomplish this requires work. Learning how to position the shoulder blade and use the rotator cuff muscles to hold the ball in place with very specific exercises that are progressed gradually as pain, strength, range of motion and function improve.