According to Massage Magazine, shoulder pain is one of the top seven types of pain, affecting nearly 20 percent of the population. Shoulder pain can affect the range of motion, restrict normal activities, interrupt sleep and impact overall quality of life. Massage therapy can be an effective pain reliever.
Understanding the shoulder’s anatomy
The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint – the most flexible joint in the entire human body. The two parts that make up the joint, the glenohumeral and acromioclavicular joints, are considered to be multiaxial because they can move bones along several axes. Held together by ligaments and muscles, they facilitate movement of the arm to circle and rotate.
Causes of shoulder pain
Because the shoulder is used so frequently, it is subject to repetitive-motion injuries. It is especially vulnerable to painful dislocation. A number of conditions can cause shoulder pain, including:
Fluid-filled sacs, bursa, cushion the joints (including the shoulder joint). When they become inflamed and swell, they become painful.
When joints are overused, the tendons (they connect muscles to bones) become inflamed and cause pain. Degenerative diseases like arthritis can cause chronic tendonitis.
Stiffness, swelling, and pain are all symptoms of arthritis, a condition caused by wear and tear of the joints.
Occasionally, the top of the shoulder blade (the acromion) puts pressure on the rotator cuff’s tendons and bursas in sort of a collision that impedes normal function and movement.
• Rotator cuff injuries
Lifting and other repetitive overhead motions can lead to tendon tears that injure the rotator cuff.
• Frozen shoulder
Also known as adhesive capsulitis, “frozen” shoulder symptoms include stiffness and pain from any movement, limiting your range of motion. The risk of developing it rises if you’re recovering from a condition that prevents you from moving your arm, like a stroke or mastectomy.
Some types of massage therapy may relieve symptoms of all of these conditions.
Why massage therapy can help relieve shoulder pain
Although it cannot cure the conditions mentioned above, massage therapy can often help as a pain reliever for shoulder pain. It can relieve muscle strain, stress, and joint pressure, and can reduce nerve compression, which in turn reduces the spasms and contractions that cause pain. As long as surgery has not been prescribed to treat your shoulder pain, massage therapy can help:
• Decrease trigger-point pain
• Loosen the muscles to increase the range of motion
• Stretch joints for improved range of motion
• Promote healing by employing techniques that improve circulation
How massage therapy helps improve range of motion
Massage therapy, by manipulating the muscles, creates an involuntary relaxation response that occurs in conjunction with a physical (or mechanical) response to pressure applied to soft tissue. The combination of the two results in physical and emotional benefits – including increased range of motion.
For those suffering from shoulder pain, reduced range of motion can be debilitating – especially in older people. It can cause problems dressing and managing their personal hygiene, reducing their independence and sometimes bringing on signs of depression. For others, it just hurts the quality of life and makes everyday tasks more difficult.
Studies show that massage therapy can particularly improve flexion and abduction range of motion. Manual pressure and soft-tissue massage are helpful, but sports massage may provide the most relief. Massage therapists use the following techniques in sports massage to increase the range of motion:
• Effleurage, which uses long, gliding strokes from the extremities inward at various levels of pressure
• Petrissage, a technique that is rhythmic and may include kneading, skin rolling, lifting or a push-pull movement
• Friction, a technique that is more physically demanding than effleurage and petrissage, consisting of deep, circular or crosswise movements with the thumbs, fingertips, palms or elbows designed to penetrate deep tissue
Where to get massage therapy
Although a shoulder rub from your significant other may feel good, you should contact a registered massage therapist for massage therapy. He or she will ask you about the type of pain you have, what caused it and where it is. That helps determine the most effective type of massage therapy to use for your shoulder pain. A registered massage therapist is likely to use one of the following types of massage:
• Swedish, which involves long, smooth strokes, or circular and kneading motion on the outer muscle layers
• Deep tissue, which employs friction and slow strokes to reach the inner muscle layers
• Shiatsu, which uses finger pressure on acupuncture points
How to become a massage therapist
Florida Academy in Fort Myers offers a comprehensive curriculum (with the flexibility of day and evening classes) that can get you started in a massage therapy career in as few as 30 weeks. When you conclude your training and earn your license, you will be qualified for a massage therapist position in a clinic, chiropractic office, spa, hotel, fitness center, sports medicine facility, cancer treatment location or more.
You can choose either a 600-hour massage therapy program to learn the basics needed to start your career, as well as hands-on training including how to administer Swedish massage or the 900-hour (eight-month) innovative and biologically based therapies program. In the 900-hour program, your training includes the coursework for the 600-hour program plus how to use medical devices for massage therapy, such as e-stim machines, near-infrared light therapy, and ultrasound, along with related therapies you may encounter in the workplace, such as:
• Chiropractic-assisting electrical stimulation
• Medical massage
• Neuromuscular massage
• Chinese medicine
If you want to promote wellness and help people relieve their pain, consider a career as a massage therapist. Contact Florida Academy today. Classes begin every six weeks.