“Doc, it hurts…right there…”
About a third of you come in having already become stiff. It’s usually women who get contractures and I can’t really tell you why that is. It might be some physiological or hormonal or anatomical factor. But I also think it can be related to many women’s attitude toward pain. I think many are fearful of pain and their first instinct is to protect the arm. Don’t move it. Pain might mean something bad is happening. If I could fix one thing, it would be to tell you to move that arm. Unless a bone is broken and sticking out of the skin…then move that arm. If you just wake up one day with a stiff, sore shoulder…or a stiff sore anything for that matter…move it. Move it gently, BUT MOVE IT!
I had shoulder impingement in both of my shoulders about 6 years ago. I was lifting weights at the time and doing a lot of horseback riding; saddling, washing horses, fixing gear, etc. I don’t recall any injury. Of course on Day One of the pain, I knew exactly what I had. One of the fringe benefits of having gone to medical school! I went ahead and took an X-ray (fringe benefit of having my own machine) and found that indeed I had that inferior projection of my acromion. It hurt to raise my arm to the side, especially with my hand pointed down. Rather than stop moving it there, I just raised my arm with the hand turned upward because that didn’t hurt. I never lost range of motion or developed a contracture. As I discovered new ways in which my shoulder hurt, I soon figured out ways to move it and accomplish the same movement in another way which didn’t hurt.
Try everything possible to keep that shoulder moving and if you can’t, then don’t wait around for 6 weeks before seeing your primary care doc or your orthopod. Once you develop a contracture, it is very hard to rehabilitate your shoulder, no matter what the problem is. Don’t wait to see if this is going to get better on its own.
Here’s an easy exercise to do on your own in order to regain range of motion.
Flexion: Face a wall and put your finger tips on the wall. Then use your fingers to help you elevate the arm as high as you can to the point of resistance or discomfort. Then bring your hand back down and repeat as you’re able.
Abduction: Turn your side to the wall and use your finger tips to assist you in raising your arm to the side. Raise the arm to the point of resistance or discomfort. Then back down and repeat as you’re able.