You will encounter many different forms of massage depending where around the world you travel. However in this modern age, you can probably find all significant forms of massage within a close proximity.
Is Massage Therapy Really Enough?
Shoulder injuries can be quite serious and if not treated properly, can cause long term effects that may even become permanent. So why massage therapy? It does seem at first look as if a massage is not going to make your injury go away and you may be thinking that you need something more intense, like surgery. And you may be right, that may in fact be the case, but consider a few facts about massage therapy before you make your conclusion.
When a person gets injured, whether it be the shoulder, the hips, the knees, the fingers or wherever else, one thing remains true: you never really know how serious your injury is until you are unable to use it due to chronic pain. The benefit of working with a massage therapist is because therapists build relationships with their clients and spend much more time with them than doctors do. Massage therapists also have more capable manual skills then a neuromuskuloskeletal practitioner for example. That being said, it is safe to make the claim that massage therapists can address a wider range of injuries around the body, including that of the shoulder.
Understanding The Human Body And Skeletal Structure
Above the shoulder blade, there are fibers that connect the humeral head to the rotator cuff using four different muscles, the supraspinatus, the infraspinatus, the teres minor and the subscapularis. It can be likened to a epaulet on a military jacket in that when it is contracted, the four different muscles rotate the humerus which also gives it its name of the rotator cuff.
Beyond that, the rotator cuff actually does so much more than simply rotate, so much so that some even find it strange that it carries that name when it is not even its primary function. Its actual first job is to hold the humeral head into the middle of its pocket on the outside of the shoulder blade, regardless of where the arms move.
The shoulder joint also works through what doctors call the roll and glide. For example, if you raise your hands over your head, your humeral head rolls up into its socket and this would disconnect or detach to touch the acromion if it didn’t have its counterpart to head back towards and into its socket. The opposite of that is what keeps your joints from getting hurt. Giving another example of how this works, imagine a professional baseball pitcher throwing his most incredible and world famous fast ball. When that pitcher throws the ball his rotator cuff pulls his humeral head back in the direction of his scapula which keeps his arms from flying loose over the home plate. It then glides his humeral head back to the middle of the socket and safely back into place to where its natural position is.
A Brief Discussion Of The Common Shoulder Dysfunctions
More often than not, the first attempt at relieving shoulder discomfort or pain is to release the tightness in the rotator cuff. However, it is agreed that the method should be altered to releasing the spasm in the entire shoulder joint as a single unit. The reason behind this relatively new theory is because majority of shoulder injuries are a direct result of shoulder joint misalignment. This is a result of the rotator cuff being unable to direct the humeral head back into the middle of its socket.
Here are a couple of common problems associated with shoulder injury dysfunction.
The SLAP Tear – SLAP is short for Superior Labral Tear from Anterior or Posterior. The SLAP Tear is a tear on the superior labrum. The labrum in turn is made up of cartilages that form a circle which then creates a deeper pocket in order to give your arm more movement. When a person experiences a SLAP tear, it is a result of the bone rolling up hence moving the entire arm up a space. However, the rotator cuff is unable to counter the weight of that movement causing equal glide back into its place in the socket. Since the labrum is in line next to help remedy the situation, it should technically be responsible for replacing the shoulder back into its place. But since this is not its ideal place or position, your humeral head will eventually come out of the labrum from the top or the front of the joint where there are ligaments which is not where the arm belongs.
Acromial impingement, shoulder bursitis, plus other rotator cuff muscle tears. These are shoulder injuries that are related to the failing of your downward and backward glide which also causes failure in your cuff. Since the humerus rolls up through the strength and purpose of the deltoid, it brings your arms over your head but in cases when the rotator cuff is unable to swing back down into your glenoid fossa, your bone will then strike your acromion found above the humeral head. This causes immediate damage. With an injury like this, you may even find yourself developing arthritis considering that if your joint is not in its proper place you are not allowing the cartilage to be with each other which is needed in order to nourish the fluid in your joints.
The Most Likely Candidates For Shoulder Dysfunction
The most typical of shoulder dysfunction injuries occur with people whose work makes them have their hands above their heads for extended periods of time. This is because it injures the rotator cuffs. The rotator cuff has no myoglobin which basically means that it is unable to burn glucose in order to gain energy. Think of it as a battery of a car that has run out, like the battery, the liver needs about thirty minutes at bare minimum to recharge. However, if you are never fully charging your battery, you will overuse your syndromes and fascial adhesions.
Baseball players are also likely candidates considering that they pitch that baseball thousands of times in their lifetimes. You see, when you throw a baseball you increase your chances of having rotator cuff problems because it is also the rotator cuff that slows your arm down once you have thrown the ball. Considering that throwing a ball also demands that you twist your body, it also means that your rotator cuff has to work at an odd angle as your shoulder is protracted and your ribcage is twisted as well.
Swimmers are also prone to shoulder dysfunction due to the wide range of moves that they move their arms with. They also have the added pressure of water resistance plus they are also rotating their heads, necks, and rib cages. Doing these motions repeatedly over years of training and competition will surely lead to straining your rotator cuff, particularly in the subscapularis, the part of you that stabilizes while supporting the internal rotation of your arms when swinging your arms around your body and with the water resistance.
What Exactly Does Massage Therapy Do For Your Shoulder Dysfunction
The true magic of massage therapy in relation to shoulder dysfunction is its ability to restore the gliding and rolling of the motions that your arms were meant to do. Massage therapists have the knowledge and techniques in order to relax and free muscles that have been overworked. But not all therapists have the same experience so it is vital for your therapist to know that the rotator cuff is your primary stabilization system for your joints. They must be fully aware that the shoulder obviously has a wide range of motion and there is more to its movements then flexion and extension. The humeral head must be able to glide back into the middle of your joint without disruption or fatigue.
All that being said, massage therapists should have a know how of how to best communicate with their clients. For example, using the words like up and down and side to side are not exactly helpful to an athlete who is suffering from shoulder dysfunction. Massage therapists need to describe movement as upward and downward rotations along with the movements of the ribcage being clear as day by using words like protraction and retraction. These words will help set the tone of the severity of the injury and the seriousness the massage therapist whose aim is to relieve you permanently from an injury that is on its way to becoming permanent.
Beyond the help that your massage therapist can provide, don’t forget that you can also do something for yourself even if you are not a licensed massage therapist. There are self help techniques such as adding ice for inflammation on your rotator cuff as well as adding heated pads for muscle tightness. In cases of focal inflammation try adding ice where the inflammation is located and in cases where there is no inflammation you could add heat.
Going back to massage therapists, it is highly suggested to do an assessment with your client to find out if the massages being done on your shoulder are effective or not. By seeing if your clients are able to move their arms through a variety of motions around the shoulder you should be able to tell if the humeral head remains in the center pocket throughout a range of motions. If you find that the scapula is rising with the movement then you should be able to confirm that a problem exists. Your client should be able to tell you this as well considering that there will be pain.
However, treating the muscles and getting the humeral head to move with a natural fluid motion should also gain some immediate results as the client should feel a difference. In cases of these, repeat the exercise several times.
Allow Yourself And Your Therapist The Opportunity To Treat Your Shoulder Dysfunction
Now that we have been able to determine that massage therapists can indeed treat your shoulder dysfunctions, it is your turn to make the first move in order to get yourself on the road to recovery. Clients must make the initial assessment and seek help. Sure you can treat yourself with some self help guides but massaging yourself will only go so far. You need a trained professional to take you to the point where you no longer feel any discomfort.
Massage therapists should in turn do their part in properly and thoroughly treating their patients. They will need to be open minded and must know how to listen to your reports about the way you feel during and after each session. Furthermore, they need to be willing to learn more with each patient considering that each patient may have different needs, aches, and pains.
All in all though, massage therapy certainly is a helpful route to take when treating your shoulder dysfunction and before you know it, you may find your shoulder working exactly the way you want it to once more.