One thing I have learnt since being a Manual Therapist & Pilates instructor is that problem is not always where the pain is.
In this article I am going to be looking at how shoulder pain could be caused by your glutes. Although this may sound a little bit odd to begin with, by the end I hope you will be able to see that it is quite straight forward and entirely possible for your glute’s to cause shoulder pain.
I will use a recent example of someone who visited my studio, who was suffering from shoulder pain.
To give you a little background they were female, age range 50-59 and suffering with pain in the right neck & shoulder area. Her activities include Pilates classes (with me) and also Nordic walking.
The pain wasn’t there all the time, it came on during the Nordic walking (after 2 miles), normal walking (2-5 miles) and when standing for long periods of time. After visiting other Therapists it had been put down to ‘rotator cuff imbalance’ and also bad posture.
During our testing I could see the movement through the shoulder joint was pretty good. The muscles of the rotator to cuff appeared to be functioning quite well too, so this made me decide to look elsewhere.
Then we got onto the pelvis. Here I could see the pelvis wasn’t quite functioning as it should on the left side. I took note of this.
Before I go any further there is something I want to explain to you and that is a group of muscles called ‘posterior oblique sling (See Picture)’.
There’s muscle’s form part of our ‘outer core unit’ (that’s an article for another day) and the sling attaches one side of the body to the other. Now the right posterior oblique sling consists of: Left Glute Max, Thorcalumbar fascia, right Latissimus dorsi. Remember the Latissimus dorsi attaches onto the shoulder blade. Now because the pelvis was not functioning as it should, I suspected that this ‘sling’ was also not functioning as it should.
So we tested it.
As I suspected the right posterior oblique sling wasn’t functioning too well. The left one seemed to functioning ok.
It is important to note that the Latissimus dorsi muscle is responsible for drawing the shoulder blade down (depression) away from the ear.
So if the right sing isn’t functioning correctly that means the Latissimus dorsi is not functioning as it should, which could be resulting in the shoulder blade being held in a elevated (lifted towards ear) position. What could possibly be happening here? Well the muscles around the neck/shoulder being in a constant position of elevation causing them to overwork, become short and possible painful.
At this point we have to consider is the shoulder pain coming because of:
In my mind it didn’t make sense to focus on one but all three. So after some treatment to help the pelvis, Glute max (left) and Latissimus Dorsi (right) function, as well as some therapy to release the pain and tension around the neck & shoulder, homework exercises were given based on these.
I’m pleased to say after just two sessions (and successful completion of homework exercises) that the pain in the neck shoulder had dramatically decreased and after a few more sessions, to correct a few other issue we had found in our initial screen, my client was happily doing Nordic walking without any pain in the neck and shoulder, and was able to complete a few extra miles.
If you have been suffering from neck/shoulder pain and you’re not sure what to do, let us help. Please feel free to get in touch today.
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About the author
My name is Alex Moore & I'm a Manual Therapist & Pilates instructor who works across the south of England. My manual therapy covers a range of different disciplines which include: Massage, Biomechanics & Pilates. I work with a range of clients, who suffer with a range of different issues such as Back pain, Sciatica, Frozen shoulder, Hip bursitis, plantar fasciitis & more.
I work from my home studio in Poole and also hold Pilates classes around Corfe Mullen, Broadstone, Poole, Wareham, Bearwood & Wimborne.
Pilates Instructor & Therapist, helping you understand why we do what we do!