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Open Frame Vs. the Impingement

Back in early May I started noticing some minor pain in my right shoulder. I'd had similar pain in the past, and it had gone away after a week or so. This pain didn't go away. If anything it got a little bit worse, although never in a debilitating way. Eventually at the beginning of July it was diagnosed as tendinitis in the rotator cuff, and I was prescribed physical therapy.

The clinic I went to for the PT, which is located under Husky Stadium, told me that the tendinitis was caused by impingement. As I understood what they told me, there's a gap between a couple of the bones in the shoulder that the tendons of the rotator cuff pass through, and that gap was rubbing or pinching the tendons, causing irritation and inflammation. I was assigned a series of stretches to try to loosen muscles that had gotten stiff from irritation, and a series of exercises that, as I understood it, would strengthen the rotator cuff so that the muscles could push the bones apart a bit to relieve the pressure on the tendons. (Not sure I got that part right, but that's what I took away from what they told me.) They also said that my slouching posture might be causing some of the impingement, so I should work on straightening out my posture.

I was (and am) dubious about changing my posture at age 54, particularly since I was told at one point that I have a slight curvature of the spine, but a couple of the stretches they gave me have certainly made me more aware of my posture. One is to pinch the muscles between my shoulder blades together and then pull them downward. This pulls the shoulders back, and it also feels really good, so I've been doing a lot. (It also always reminds me of Sharee's old housemate, Fiamma, chiding her: "Shoulders back, tits out!") Another stretch is to tuck the chin down on the breastbone, which stretches and straightens the neck. When I first started doing this, I got these wonderful cascading tingling sensations down my entire right arm into the fingers, which made me think some nerves were being unpinched. That felt really good too, so I also did that stretch a lot. Gradually the tingling sensations have gone away, but it still feels good.

Between those stretches and building up a little more muscle in my shoulders, I've become more conscious of my posture and more inclined to straighten it out regularly, especially when I'm standing. (It's harder to do when I'm sitting, maybe because the legs help.) It feels really good to do it, like my whole body is opening up. Thus I've started using the motto Open Frame to describe the sensation. I visualize the gaps between my bones opening up. Sayonara, impingement!

Over all, the pain in my shoulder has largely vanished, even when I sleep on it, which I was told would be the last pain to go away. I'm almost back to nearly full mobility too. I'll be curious to see what the PTs tell me about how to prevent this from happening in the future. Will I be told to continue the stretches and exercises on a more limited schedule? I've been putting a lot of time in on this therapy.

When I was in Amsterdam this summer with my mom and sister, we spent a couple of hours one day sitting in the park watching the people bicycle by. A few women with perfect posture cycled by, and they looked so elegant and at ease. I'd love to have a square posture like that. I'm not sure I'll get there, but becoming more conscious of my posture has been an interesting experience. I notice when I turtle my neck now. I'll probably never achieve perfect posture, but if I can remember to open my frame regularly, that might just be enough to fend off impingement.



( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 1st, 2014 04:28 pm (UTC)
I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my left shoulder for the same reason. PT and continued work with my trainer has it restored to full movement and almost the same strength as the right.

That "shoulder retraction" move is really important to learn for anyone who spends long time at a keyboard.
Oct. 1st, 2014 04:30 pm (UTC)
It immediately felt so good that I knew it was something I needed to be doing.

Edited at 2014-10-01 04:30 pm (UTC)
Oct. 1st, 2014 05:28 pm (UTC)
pinch the muscles between my shoulder blades together and then pull them downward.

I couldn't do that. I have no idea where the muscular control is to do it, no more than I could wiggle my ears.

A numbness in my shoulders was treated by teaching me a neck-stretching exercise consisting of holding a hand up to each side of my head in turn and pushing my head against it. That helped a lot, and at least that I could do.

located under Husky Stadium

I've never been any nearer Husky Stadium than to drive past it on Montlake Blvd.
Oct. 1st, 2014 05:34 pm (UTC)
The stadium was completely remodeled a couple of years ago. They basically tore it down and rebuilt it from the ground up. Or maybe from the underground up, because this underground clinic looks brand spanking new as well.

Edited at 2014-10-01 05:35 pm (UTC)
Oct. 1st, 2014 11:50 pm (UTC)
Good for you! I have similar problems but can't do all the exercises that might help because I also have herniated disks in my neck so I'm not supposed to bend my neck down. It is appalling to realize just how bad one's natural posture is when one is not paying attention!

BTW, one other trick - as you're walking around, if you face your palms outward as you walk, it helps open up your shoulders

Edited at 2014-10-01 11:51 pm (UTC)
Oct. 2nd, 2014 02:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the tip. One of the interesting things about the PT is just how many strange exercises they can come up with to put different muscle groups into play. Ah, human ingenuity!

Herniated disks sounds like a much more serious thing to deal with.
Oct. 2nd, 2014 04:06 pm (UTC)
I recognise most of these from yoga. I could make my usual recommendation here that a yoga class is a marvellous way to keep doing this stuff - I put my 20 plus yrs of semi regular yoga down to why I am mobile in all the usual ways and my sister , who has had similar back and neck problems, is very much not.
Oct. 2nd, 2014 04:07 pm (UTC)
I also find yoga stretches v helpful on long haul flights - am slightly amazed I always seem to be only person even trying to dekink!
Oct. 2nd, 2014 04:09 pm (UTC)
It has occurred to me that the PT exercises and stretches I'm learning are some kind of medical version of yoga.
Oct. 2nd, 2014 04:12 pm (UTC)
Yoga - at least some versions - makes the stretches flow together and adds breathing and meditation - so for me a more enjoyable whole package. I am terribly bad at remembering to do random PT stretches I find it so boring!
Oct. 2nd, 2014 04:18 pm (UTC)
Whereas for me the prospect of going to yoga classes and doing group things is always intimidating/off-putting. My sister does yoga, so I've considered it over the years. Of all the possibilities, it does seem more appealing than, say, a gym. Tai chi is another thing I've considered.
Oct. 3rd, 2014 11:04 pm (UTC)
I'm still doing some PT exercises for an impingement on my left shoulder, probably growing slowly with age but most likely exacerbated by walker and crutch work a year and a half ago. Yoga helps, too. I do the PT while watching music shows in TV, which, while it now has zero archaeology shows, now has lots of bluegrass and some alt rock.
Oct. 4th, 2014 01:14 am (UTC)
I can imagine that the walker and crutches exacerbated any existing impingement, but when I saw that you'd commented I was expecting something about PT for the leg itself. And don't you sift alt rock when you do archaeology?
Oct. 4th, 2014 02:43 am (UTC)
The PT for the broken hip was earlier and worked just fine. I just have to keep using it. The shoulder is less drastic but much more reluctant to fix itself.

Alt rock is what you shout at a rock eading right at you.
Oct. 4th, 2014 02:53 am (UTC)
Interesting about the shoulder. Maybe these things never go away completely, although mine is vastly improved.
Oct. 4th, 2014 09:54 pm (UTC)
I started taking ballet classes a few years ago to try to improve my posture. I've noticed when i'm actively taking ballet classes, my posture outside of class is pretty good. When i'm not able to take a class for a quarter, my posture slips into slouch again -- altho' when i notice that i'm slouching, i feel it's easier for me to correct because i have taken ballet.

Forget yoga -- you should totally take ballet! ;)
Oct. 5th, 2014 03:19 pm (UTC)
Maybe some kind of fusion of yoga and ballet? Sounds very Seattle somehow.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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