As we age most of us start to find we get stiffer in some, if not all our joints. The shoulder joint is typically an area of concern and shoulder problems commonly impact our activities of daily life.
It’s not uncommon to find increasing difficulties with dressing, grooming, house work and reaching up to top cupboards just to name a few activities. The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in our body, it is called a ball and socket joint because the ball at the top end of your arm bone (humerus) rotates within the socket (glenoid) that is your shoulder joint. But a very mobile joint lacks stability as it relies purely the integrity of the muscles and ligaments around the joint to keep it functioning. Healthy shoulder joints depend on good muscle balance and spinal posture to remain functional. So how can you help to keep your shoulders flexible and strong as you age.
The following exercises will help you maintain flexibility and strength allowing you to enjoy the activities you love.
- First and foremost is posture; the curve you develop in your upper back is called a kyphosis; this rounding of your back and shoulders will limit the amount of movement you can achieve through your shoulder joints. As the thoracic spine curves, the shoulder blades migrate outwards away from the spine and this causes the shoulder joint to tip forward. Movement in your shoulders is not limited by tendons becoming impinged – this cause both pain and reduced flexibility. So, it is important to maintain good posture.
- Spotlight exercise; sit upright in your chair and imagine a spotlight on the front of your breast bone, simply pivot your chest upwards to raise the spot light. Your shoulders should not be forced backwards. Make sure you adopt your spotlight position throughout each of the following exercises.
- Shoulder shrug and back; shrug your shoulders up, roll them back squeezing the shoulder blades together at the back, then press down to the start position. Repeat 10 times
- Seated row; start with your arms out in front of you, imagine you are holding an oar. Pull your hands back to your chest, squeezing the shoulder blades together at the back. Repeat 10 times
- Foreword shoulder raises; start with your arms by your side, have your thumbs facing forwards. Raise your arms up over head as far as you can comfortably take them. Try to avoid your shoulders hitching up during this exercise. Repeat 10 times.
- Side shoulder raises; start with your arms by your side, have your thumbs facing outwards. Raise your arms up over head as far as you can comfortably take them. Try to avoid your shoulders hitching up during this exercise. Repeat 10 times.
- Crucifix chest stretch; raise your arms out to the sides with your palms facing upwards. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together as you push your arms backwards. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
- Shoulder rotations with a bar/broom; sitting upright hold the bar in both hands, palms down and keep your elbows tucked into your sides throughout the exercise. Use the bar to assist rotating your forearms from side to side. Repeat 10 times.
- Angel wings; start with your arms out to the side with elbows and shoulders at about 90 degrees. If you already have reduced shoulder range, drop your elbows down to a comfortable level. Squeeze the shoulder blades together at the back and lift and lower your arms through a small range of movement. Repeat 10 times.
- Across the body lifts; hold a light weight in your hands, (you can use a household item like a baked bean tin), starting with your arm extended bring the weight up across your body to the opposite shoulder. Repeat 10 times on each arm
- Diagonal lifts; starting with your hand on the opposite hip, extend your arm up and across your body diagonally, to finish with your arm extended and the chest open. Repeat 10 times.
- Upright row; hold the weights in your hands, rested on your lap, bring the weights up to your chin and back down again. Repeat 10 times.
- Table top stretch to finish; stand at the back of a dining room chair with both hands rested on the top of the back rest. Slowly lower your chest down to feel s stretch through your chest and shoulders. Keep your back straight and tummy tucked in. hold for 20-30 sec.