Pilates Can… Reduce Shoulder Pain

Pilates Can… Reduce Shoulder Pain

How are we already here? I expect a bit of a cold snap to welcome me into October, but instead I’ve been lulled along with these beautiful fall days and haven’t even pulled out my autumn sweaters. I had some personal goals for this year that I haven’t quite accomplished yet, and suddenly I’m aware that we’re in the fourth quarter of the 2023. If you’ve participated in any of my mat classes, you probably know that my right shoulder has issues. I’ve dislocated my shoulder five times since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s bananas! I’ve done a lot of rehab and Pilates and strength training to stabilise the joint and prevent further incidents, but I live in fear. Those of you who’ve experienced a major injury or a recurring one can likely relate. I’m commitment shy when it comes to certain exercises like side planks or anything that requires a lot of range of motion. But my Pilates background has certainly helped me deal with my injuries and stay safe when I’m feeling insecure.

Did you know that a consistent Pilates practice can reduce shoulder pain and improve mobility in your shoulders and upper back? If you’re living with persistent shoulder pain or a chronic injury, Pilates exercises can be used to strengthen the shoulders, back, chest, core and arms, but those same exercises are also great for training–and sometimes retraining–the body’s functional movement patterns. Pilates equipment like the Cadillac, Chair and Reformer are perfect for isolating specific movement patterns while also giving you the option to add or subtract load, include spinal movements like flexion, extension or lateral flexion, as well as challenge core stability.

The shoulder complex is exactly that–complicated! The shoulder is made up of two joints, the acromioclavicular joint and the glenohumeral joint. The acromioclavicular joint is the meeting place of the acromion–part of the shoulder blade or scapula–and the collarbone (clavicle).  The glenohumeral joint is the ball and socket joint where the humeral head (the ball, at the top of the upper arm bone) and the glenoid (the socket) meet. You’ve probably also heard of the rotator cuff, but you may not know what it does. The rotator cuff connects the humerus (upper arm bone) to the scapula and is made up of the tendons of four muscles–the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and the subscapularis. Tendons attach muscle to bone. Muscles in turn move bones by pulling on the tendons. The muscles of the rotator cuff keep the humerus tightly in the socket. The socket, or the glenoid, is shallow and flat, but it’s rimmed with the labrum–soft tissue that makes the socket deeper and molded to fit the humeral head. The joint capsule surrounding the shoulder is a fluid filled sac that lubricates the joint. It’s made up of ligaments–soft tissue that holds bone to bone.

Shoulder injuries can occur to literally ANY part of the shoulder. And even more confusing? Where you feel pain or discomfort is not always the source of the problem. Building awareness around movement habits during recovery can be key to avoiding re-injury, which is where the mindful aspects of Pilates are especially useful. Studies also indicate that improving shoulder strength and mobility in combination with increasing spinal mobility, particularly thoracic or upper back extension, can yield positive results when dealing with conditions like tendinitis and impingement of the shoulder joints.

This month we’re focusing on the ways Pilates can train your brain and your body to help reduce shoulder pain and improve functional movement, strengthen the shoulder complex, and create awareness around spinal mobility and core stability to improve your shoulder health overall. Follow us at @retrofitpilates for more information, exercises and tips on how Pilates can reduce your shoulder pain!

See you in class!

Pam Ferguson
Retrofit Master Instructor
Lead Instructor/Operations Associate