Shoulder blade vs. Rotator Cuff Pain

I want to talk about shoulder malposition which can easily be mistaken for an issue with the rotator cuff. Sometimes the shoulder blade will go forward and the shoulder joint won’t be able to function correctly causing shoulder miss position.

How does the shoulder get out of position?  Well, there are muscles all around the joint making it like a little island. The shoulder is only being held on by the acromioclavicular joint (commonly called the AC joint) on the collarbone. Everything else is just on muscles, sitting on top of the rib cage. Sometimes they roll forward due to bad posture (hunching over), muscles that are fighting other muscles, or muscles that are just tight or weak.  Any of these problems can cause the joint to get out of position.

Here is a perfect example of experiencing shoulder malposition.  Stand tall with your shoulders back and raise your arm up.  Easy, right?  Now, push your shoulder forward, leave you arm to the side, and try to raise it above your head. This time, the exercise is harder to complete and causes a small amount of discomfort. The shoulder blade has to be pushed back to go all the way up. When it’s forward some of the bony protrusions on the head of the humerus jam into the joint, causing it to not work as well.  

People who are working forward, driving, using computers, and mountain biking have a tendency to get a locked jam.  Older generations, whose shoulder blades roll forward, have shoulders that won’t work as well and experience difficulty reaching objects above their heads.  Reaching for something on a grocery store top shelf can be painful and not a simple task as older arms may go back and then up.  This kind of shoulder blade malposition is usually due to hyper kyphosis (too much of a rounding of your mid-back or forward head posture).

Lesson for today? If you have issues with your shoulders it can be a problem with the shoulder blade or back, not necessarily the rotator cuff . Everyone says, “Well my shoulder doesn’t work, it’s my rotator cuff.” It may have progressed to that, but once we help the positioning of the shoulder blades, patients can move their arm with no problem and the pain goes away.

We see these kinds of problems quite frequently at Stones River Chiropractic and have had plenty of experience treating them successfully!  If you have any questions please feel free to give us a call!

Watch a video on this and more on our YouTube channel.


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