Shoulder pain during your yoga practice?

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Shoulder pain during your yoga practice?

Shoulder impingement

  • Are you suffering pain around the shoulder joint and down the outside of the upper arm?
  • Are you experiencing pain with overhead activities such as putting out the washing, swimming or yoga poses such as side plank variations?
  • Is your shoulder pain stopping you from lying on your side at night?

You could have shoulder impingement! Shoulder impingement pain can radiate from the shoulder to the outside of the upper arm. It can be caused by pinching of the tendons and/or bursae inside the shoulder joint.

What is Impingement?

Let’s start by understanding some of the shoulder anatomy. A bursae is simply a small sack of fluid that protects bony prominences. We have them all over our body, such as the tips of our elbows, the outer hip area, the heels. There is a small bursa that sits just under the end of your collarbone.

The scapular (shoulder blade) drapes over the rib cage like a cape and connects to the collarbone to form the roof of the shoulder joint. The arm bone (humerus) connects with the socket (on the scapula) to create the ball and socket part of the shoulder joint.

The socket is very shallow, like a golf ball to a tee, so we rely on four small tendons to hold the ball stable in the socket and prevent excessive slip and slide. These four tendons are collectively called your rotator cuff tendons.

If the shoulder blade and collar bone complex is not positioned well on the rib cage, or if the ball is not held stable and centred in the socket, this can reduce the space in the top of shoulder and contribute to pinching of the underlying tendons or bursae.

Watch this short video here to understand how the shoulder blade position can contribute to your pain.

Like to know more about how to improve your shoulder pain? CLICK HERE

How do the rotator cuff tendons contribute?

A tendon is like a thick piece of rope that attaches a muscle to a bone. Your four small rotator cuff tendons are designed to hold the ball stable in the shallow socket. If there is weakness or imbalance in the function of these tendons it can contribute to excessive slide in the joint and compression of the top tendon underneath the roof of the socket. This is typically felt as pain down the outside of the arm with certain shoulder movements. If this tendon becomes weak from repetitive compression, we can have pain and symptoms around the joint and down the arm, commonly known as tendinopathy and bursitis caused by shoulder impingement.

How can we treat this? 

Firstly an assessment is essential to determine why the problem has occurred. Common reasons can include:

  • Reduced muscle control around the scapula. Your shoulder blade functions like the base of a crane for your arm. If the base of the crane starts to tip, it makes it very difficult to lift the arm or perform repetitive overhead activities without compromising the joint.
  • Reduced strength and control in the rotator cuff tendons resulting in excessive slide of the ball within the socket
  • Repetitive overhead loading
  • The natural shape of your shoulder joint can decrease the space of the shoulder joint

Tips to help during your yoga practice:

  • Care with chaturanga- this pose takes great strength in the shoulders and can often overload the delicate rotator cuff tendons. Watch this short video here to learn how to reduce shoulder pain in chaturanga!
  • Use these simple tips here during downward facing dog.
  • Watch our THREE ESSENTIAL TIPS to protect your shoulders in yoga here

Tips to help in daily life:

  • Activities that irritate the tendons or bursae should be avoided until your shoulder control has improved. These activities are usually repetitive overhead activities, putting the hand behind the back, sleeping on the sore shoulder and high load activities such as lifting heavy and awkward items.
  • Ice or anti-inflammatory gel can help reduce swelling in the bursa
  • Your home exercise program outlined by your physio is an important component of addressing the underlying cause of your problem. Exercises often include strengthening of the shoulder blade and small rotator cuff tendons.

Like to know more about how to improve your shoulder pain? CLICK HERE

The Yoga Physio is powered by Nichole Hamilton and her physiotherapy practice Synergy Physio. To learn more about her physiotherapy practice and her team at Synergy Physio click here

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By |2020-03-16T07:35:24+00:00March 15th, 2020|pain relief, shoulder pain|0 Comments

About the Author:

Nichole is a physiotherapist, yoga and mindfulness meditation teacher. She passionate about women's health, physiotherapy and education- all to benefit you and your health! She lectures regularly at physiotherapy and orthopedic conferences on the management of hip and pelvic pain. Her expert knowledge has also been shared on popular podcasts and online learning platforms including The Yoga Physio, Clinical Edge online learning, Physioedge podcast, My Hip Pain Relief, and World Health Webinars. She looks forward to sharing her expertise and inspiring you toward better health- mind body and heart.

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