shoulder pain

shoulder pain - woman with bird tattoo on shoulder

How to relieve shoulder pain by doing nothing

Shoulder pain seems so common in our society. Because: stress – right? One US PubMed article states that “shoulder pain affects 18-26% of adults at any point in time, making it one of the most common regional pain syndromes”. 

But hidden in these stats is the fact that women ‘shoulder’ most of the burdens of the world. Women suffer most from poverty and war. Outside of war and poverty, in most families women carry the larger portion of family care, family scheduling and housework while also working outside the home – and often working harder/longer than their male colleagues for less pay (it blows my mind that this is still true).

Many women have consulted with me for shoulder pain over the years. There are LOTS of suggestions out there for addressing shoulder pain, but a lot of them involve hard work and some could be painful. If you know me, you know that’s not my favourite thing when it comes to recovering from pain!

You may also know that I’m a BIG fan of any opportunity to choose slow over fast and doing less instead of more.

My favourite way to release the shoulder is all of those things I like – slow, soft, doing less. If you work with your arms all day long – say you’re a violinist, a window-cleaner or work on your computer for hours – it’s pretty much a given that you’ll have a lot of tension – and maybe pain – in your shoulders at day’s end.

One way to reduce or prevent this is to check in regularly through the day with where you’re holding your shoulders – are they up towards your ears? Hunched forward in front of your chest?

If so, don’t pull them back to correct it (like a drill sargeant might demand) as this will only create more tension in your upper back. Instead, think of letting your shoulder blades ‘melt’ down your back, allowing the shoulder muscles to soften and your bones to settle back into their natural alignment on top of your ribcage.

The good news is you don’t have to do a whole lot of strenuous shoulder exercises to get them to release. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of strenuous exercise, it’s just more effective – and feels better – when your muscles aren’t hurting and your joints move freely).

The technique I’ll show you here is so easy it feels like you’re doing nothing. And really, you are ‘doing nothing’. But your body is doing something – it’s softening your muscles, increasing circulation in the shoulder and arm and re-aligning your shoulder joint.

Try it now:

  1. Lie on your back on your bed or couch, close enough to the edge to allow your whole arm to hang down freely off the side of the bed. Allow the arm, shoulder and hand to soften and relax. If it feels comfortable and relieving, rest here for 1-5 minutes (or more if you wish).
  2. If it’s not completely comfortable and feels too stretchy or pulling, try bending your elbow and tucking your hand under your hip on the bed, to allow just the upper arm to hang down.

This can be surprisingly effective despite being so simple, especially if you use it often. It’s remarkable how your body knows just what to do to take care of you, when you can get out of its way.

Whenever you use these positional rest techniques you create a feeling of safety in your body and rewire your brain to choose ease instead of pain.

I hope this helps you feel better, even for a few minutes. If you’d like to share with me what you noticed, email me or connect with me on Instagram.

support baby's natural posture - woman carrying baby on her back

How to support your baby’s natural posture

Have you noticed the epidemic of poor posture in our society? We know this is connected with using mobile phones and other devices daily, but how can you help your children develop good posture habits so they can avoid the chronic back, neck and shoulder pain so widespread in adults today? Can you support your baby’s natural posture from the start?

The first thing you can do right at the start of their lives which supports your own and your baby’s natural posture at the same time is to carry your baby on your back.

This is not new; mothers in traditional societies have been doing this for thousands of years. I’m sure you’ve seen many images of women carrying their babies and even older children on their backs, even while working or walking long distances.

What you won’t have seen are images of mothers carrying babies on their front!

And yet, there are many baby carrier products on the market today, most of which encourage carrying a baby on the front of the parent’s body.

Of course, this is okay while your baby is tiny – and I remember really needing to carry my newborn babies nestled on my belly for their first couple of months.

But after the first few months they are heavy enough to be moved onto your back. This doesn’t require expensive equipment – just look up instructions for wrapping your baby in a sling on your back.

Any new parent knows there are many demands on your back when you have a new baby to lift many times a day and carry around, so it’s SUPER important to minimize the impact on your body as well.  

It’s FAR better for your own posture and the health of your back muscles to carry any heavy weight on your back, which is why Nepalese Sherpas and other people who carry heavy weights for a living do the same. (They often carry big items on their heads too, though this is unsuitable for a baby!). 

With your baby on your back you will be supporting much of their bodyweight evenly balanced on your hips. Lean your upper body slightly forward from the hips, keeping your back straight without letting your shoulders slump forward. It’s the same principle as carrying a backpack evenly balanced on your back instead of a heavy bag on one shoulder.

When you carry your baby on your front, their weight pulls your shoulders and torso forward and your body has to counter this pull by tightening the muscles of the upper back around and between the shoulder blades. You’ll also notice you need to push your hips forward to avoid overbalancing and falling forwards.

This can create aching or stabbing pains in the upper back along with low back pain caused by compression of the base of your spine into your hips.

Your baby’s natural posture is also supported better when carried on your back because their own pelvis sits slightly behind them while their upper body is resting along your straight back. When they are carried on your front their body is crumpled up in a forward curve – the precursor to the adult forward-hunch posture. Unfortunately baby car capsules and most child car seats do the same thing, pushing the pelvis forward and curving the baby’s upper spine forwards.

So give their posture the best start you can by carrying them on your back when you need to be mobile. And be sure to give them plenty of time to lie on the floor during the day when they’re awake as well (with time on their back and their front) to stretch out their spines and move their arms and legs.

And if you need support for back, hip or shoulder pain associated with your pregnancy, birth or new parenthood, book an appointment to see me for in-person sessions in Melbourne or for online coaching.

This information is offered as information only and should not replace medical diagnosis or treatment or be considered medical advice.