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Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

Fascia Therapy for Shoulder Pain

by Eric Winder, DC 

  

Relieving shoulder pain requires a careful, thorough approach for this complicated joint. The shoulder moves more freely than any other joint in the human body, and its movement and stability hinge on more than a dozen different muscles.   

Whether dealing with tendinitis, arthritis or mild tears of the rotator cuff, successful treatment of most shoulder problems requires applying treatments that restore muscle function and balance. Restrictions in the connective tissue called fascia, from prior injuries, are often the cause of shoulder muscle dysfunction. However, finding and treating these restrictions can restore muscle balance and strength to relieve shoulder pain. 

To better illustrate the complexity of shoulder issues, let’s look at the cases of three recent patients of mine, whom I will refer to as Pat, Larry and Sue. Pat could not raise her left arm to her head which led to a diagnosis of tendonitis.   

Larry could not reach behind him or even into the back seat of his car.  He was told that he had bursitis in his right shoulder. An MRI of Sue’s right shoulder showed a small rotator cuff tear. She was unable to lift a coffee mug or drive her car without intense pain. Each of these patients had different problems, but the roots of their pain could be traced back to their fascia, or fibrous connective tissue.   

Three Problems 

Pat’s tendonitis occurred because lifting her arm caused pinching of a tendon. Examination showed that her latissimus dorsi muscle (which is the largest shoulder muscle) was contracted and overly tight whenever she lifter her arm. This caused the joint to align incorrectly while in motion which resulted in the painful pinch.  

Larry could not reach behind him due to tension in the pectoral (chest) muscles and restriction of the fascia at the front of his shoulder joint. These issues were probably caused by a hard fall on concrete two years prior which made his shoulder painful for several weeks.  

Sue’s shoulder movement was weak and unstable due to uneven tension and weakness of muscles around her shoulder blade. Her pain and discomfort increased gradually over several months, rather than making a sudden appearance. The instability and awkwardness in her shoulder movements caused degeneration that led to her rotator cuff tear.  

Solving the Problems 

The solutions to these three different problems shared one commonality—the need to restore muscular balance and stability to the shoulder. By using therapy to release restriction in the fascia, stress was removed from the irritated tendons and connective tissue, allowing it to heal.  This kind of fascia release in the shoulder often relieves pain even when there is a minor tear or other injury. In the cases of Pat, Larry and Sue, all three found significant relief and ability to return to their normal daily activities. 

Pat required fascia treatment in the lower back area which is where the latissimus muscle is anchored. There were also restrictions in the fascia of the left side of her rib cage and her left biceps muscle. In addition to fascia release therapy, she was also given specific massage therapy to coincide with treatment to her lower back. After a few weeks of treatment, she was able to raise her left arm almost as high as the right with comfort and ease.  

In addition to treating Larry’s pectoral muscles and right shoulder joint, fascia restriction in his thoracic spine (mid-back) also needed to be released. Low-level laser therapy was also used to relieve pain and inflammation deep within the shoulder joint. Over time, he gained full range of motion. However, I warned him to stop reaching behind him from the front seat of his car into the back to grab his briefcase. That position is unnatural and stressful to the shoulder which, therefore, caused repetitive re-injury each time he did it. 

Sue’s primary problem was in the serratus anterior muscle (under the shoulder blade).  She also had restricted fascia at the base of her neck and down her triceps. After fascia release therapy, Sue learned to do specific shoulder stretches and exercises to speed healing and prevent re-injury. After her treatment was complete, Sue could drink her morning coffee and drive without complaint. She still had to avoid heavy lifting due to the rotator cuff tear, but otherwise, she had no problems with daily activities.   

The Common Thread 

No two shoulder problems are exactly the same. However, almost all issues with the shoulder can be improved by restoring muscular balance and stability to the joint. There are many important parts to a successful treatment plan for the shoulder which include stretching and strengthening, as well as low-level laser or microcurrent therapy in some cases. The treatment that I find most critical is fascia therapy because restrictions in the fascia are often the main cause of muscle weakness, tension or imbalance.  

When fascia therapy is combined with other treatment methods to restore muscular balance and control of the shoulder joint, many types of shoulder pain can be reduced or relieved entirely. This is even true when shoulder surgery has failed to resolve shoulder pain, or has created new pain due to scar tissue.   

 Dr. Eric Winder has 24 years in practice, with a focus on relieving pain and restoring alignment and motion through fascia release therapies without forceful manipulation. For more information, visit GentleBay.com.    

  

August 2022 Digital Edition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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