How I Reversed Long Term Shoulder Pain in 1 Week
Shoulder pain and stiffness is a common ailment in our society but it hasn't always been this way. The good news is that 99% of this pain and stiffness is curable without any drastic intervention - in fact you can just laze around!
Since my university days I’ve been a heavy lifter, a competitive athlete across a number of sports and generally just enjoyed being active. Like many people, this led to a significant amount of strain on my shoulders.
In and of themselves these pursuits may not have been an issue but add in to this mix the modern lifestyle of computer tapping, car driving and generally performing tasks out in front of us and you have, pretty much, the perfect recipe for shoulder pain.
Our ancestors had a lifestyle that was much more varied that ours typically is. There would have been a lot more use of hands overhead… think tree climbing and spear throwing. There would have been more pulling… think gathering materials or readying the arrow shot on the bow. There are plenty more examples but these ones are particularly important when it comes to our shoulders.
I’m a big advocate for getting more pulling into our workouts and lifestyle but I am also especially keen on some slightly more lazy approaches. These 2 top tips can help us correct from our shoulders being used to keep our arms out doing something in front of us (internal shoulder rotation) for hours at a time.
These lazy approaches to shoulder pain relief are something I use with nearly all my clients… because nearly all of them have some shoulder pain; ranging from an irritation to severe pain and inflammation.
Make Like a Monkey and... Hang!
The first really is taking a leaf from the book-of-ape – hanging!
Simply holding onto a tree branch, pull-up bar or fingerboard and dangling around (collectively known as brachiating) is a miracle worker for our shoulders… and may even be the way to fix 99% of shoulder pain and even avoid going under the surgeon’s knife in many cases (Check out John Kirsch, orthopedic surgeon for more on this). Our bodies and the cells that make them up have come to expect this stretch and are often denied it. Brachiating actually helps the bones of the arm that sit into the shoulder to properly align after they’ve been pushed in and decentralised by the repetition found in modern life.
This isn’t a pull-up or any other sort of ‘active hang’ but just a grab and relaxed hold; the effort is all in the grip and nothing else. You can of course work up to swinging, pulling up and even ‘monkey-barring’ (yes, that is a word… maybe). Give it a try, aim to build up to three times 30 second hangs per day and let me know how you get on!
Sleep is the Best Medicine
The second fix is the laziest fix possible… sleeping!
I’ve always been a side sleeper, huddled in the foetal position with my shoulders caving in toward each other. When I ruptured my achilles I knew that I would have to learn to sleep on my back (which I had previously tried, but now had some extra motivation) due to the heavy rehab boot on my foot. I took the opportunity to learn to sleep on my back and have my hands behind my head, getting my shoulders into external rotation. Within 2 days the remnant of my shoulder stiffness, which I sometimes noticed in workout warm-ups, had disappeared completely and hasn’t resurfaced once. For extra credit I then weaned myself down to one pillow and then none, bringing my head into greater alignment for countering too much looking down at a phone, computer or my dodgy foot to ensure I wasn’t going to stack it!
Go Get Lazy!
Hanging can be tough if you’re not used to it, but simply putting something up around the house or using what is already there to dangle from will give you a good visual cue to hang out – it makes a very good micro workout! Learning to alter your sleep style is a tougher mental barrier but if you can stick a couple of nights trying it out and add in some daytime practice of the position it is totally doable.
Set Up Your Home for Shoulder Success
A quick tour showing you what we've done around our home to set us up for shoulder success.