Are you a grandparent on a collision course?
Playing with and looking after grandchildren can be a joyful and fulfilling experience. It can also take its toll on your body. Even young and fit grandparents can encounter fatigue from overexertion, or experience bumps and bruises during visits with their grandchildren. But strains from repetitive movements that occur during grandparenting activities can lead to more serious overuse injuries – especially if you are not accustomed to such endeavors.
Specifically, lifting and carrying children can result in physical injuries. While your back and neck are vulnerable to suffering some level of discomfort, it’s the shoulders that often succumb to significant wear and tear.
Human shoulders are intricately woven structures that allow for maximum flexibility and rotation. And a primary component of the shoulder is the rotator cuff — a group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. The complex design, coupled with ageing, makes an “older shoulder” more susceptible to degenerative rotator cuff tears. In fact, about 10 percent of people in their 50s, and half of people over 70 years experience rotator cuff injuries.
What causes a rotator cuff injury?
Shoulder trauma and ensuing shoulder pain typically occur due to repetitive movements or heavy loads lifted from an ill-balanced or awkward stance. Examples of this include reaching forward in a repetitive manner with your arm, or holding a newborn or a heavy toddler while in a sustained forward position. These patterns of movement tend to elongate and weaken the muscles at the back of the shoulder that support the shoulder blade and neck, and cause the front shoulder muscles to become tighter. Consequently, this disturbs the balance and stability of the muscular system including the rotator cuff leaving it vulnerable to injury and shoulder pain.
How can a rotator cuff injury be prevented or managed?
The best strategy to prevent shoulder pain and injuries and improve shoulder stability is to increase strength of the muscles around the shoulder and shoulder blade. And if you are already experiencing bouts of shoulder pain, the first line of treatment is to improve the muscle and joint function with therapeutic exercise and strengthening.
Exercises for strong shoulders
Scapula retraction (Shoulder squeeze)
- Start in either sitting or upright standing with your hands on your hips.
- Lift your sternum (chest area) upwards and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5 seconds. Relax and repeat 5 times
Wall push ups
Facing a wall with arms outstretched at shoulder width apart and hands on the wall, bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the wall with your body straight..
- Stand up straight facing a wall.
- Take a step back and place the palms of your hands on the wall at shoulder height, slightly wider than your shoulders and keeping your elbows straight.
- Bend your elbows, taking your chest towards the wall. Keep your body in a straight line and tighten your buttocks and abdominals. Try to keep your head from poking forward.
- Return to the starting position by straightening your elbows, lifting your chest away from the wall.
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