By Adena Mai-Jardine, B.A., PFT, RMT

The shoulder is made up of three bones. The humerus is the big bone in your upper arm. The clavicle (collar bone) attaches to your rib cage at one end and helps keep your shoulder out to the side of your body. The scapula (shoulder blade) is the third bone. Part of the scapula, the acromion, juts out and forms a roof over the top of the joint. Another part of the scapula forms a socket into which the round head of the humerus fits.

The upper arm is held in its socket by loose ligaments and four small rotator cuff muscles that cover the joint like a sleeve. Other back, chest and upper arm muscles help support and move the shoulder.

Anatomy of the ShoulderThere is also a fluid filled sac in the shoulder called a bursa. This bursa is like a cushion that helps prevent the tendons from rubbing against the bones.

Massage Can Help

shoulder1Massage therapists can help when shoulder problems occur. More importantly, they can help prevent these kinds of problems from happening in the first place. Massage therapists will evaluate your shoulder through range of motion tests and other as- sessment procedures. They can then give you recommendations on the best course of treatment.

Their first priority is to make you feel more comfortable by getting rid of your pain. They can do this with specialized massage techniques. They may also use heat or hydrotherapy. To help the process along and to help prevent further problems your massage therapist can also give you exercises to help strengthen your shoulder and help maintain your mobility.

Massage therapists are trained to treat trigger points. As mentioned previously, these knots mimic other common shoulder conditions and are often an overlooked source of pain. Your massage therapist will be able to tell you if trigger points may be playing a role in your shoulder problem.

If you’ve injured your shoulder, your massage therapist will likely prescribe some exercises to help you regain the strength, flexibility and range of motion in your shoulder. Below is a typical exercise given to people with shoulder injuries.

Shoulder Care Checklist

To prevent shoulder problems from occurring, always practice healthy shoulder habits:

  • Maintain good posture
  • Avoid excessive and repetitive use of your shoulders
  • If you sit at work, take frequent breaks
  • Don’t put undue stress on the shoulders with heavy knapsacks or bags
  • Warm up your arms before exercising
  • Consult your massage therapist or doctor if you injure or develop pain in your shoulder, even if it seems minor
  • Do any maintenance exercises prescribed by your massage therapist

The Wand ExerciseThe Wand Exercise

shoulder2You can stand, sit or even lie down for this exercise. Hold a cane or stick straight out in front of you. Slowly raise the “wand” as high as you can overhead. Hold the wand at the highest possible point for a couple of seconds. Lower the arms and repeat the exercise several times. By using a wand, the “good” arm helps assist the movement of the injured one. Your massage therapist may have you move the wand in other directions, such as side to side.

Wall Walking

shoulder3Stand about 12 to 18 inches away from a wall. Slowly walk your fingers up the wall to the point where you start to feel some discomfort. Note how high you were able to go. Try the exercise again and try to go a little higher. Repeat several times. Your massage therapist may have you face the wall and use both hands or have you standing sideways to the wall and use just the injured arm.


Published with permission from the Author: Adena Mai-Jardine, B.A., PFT, RMT,
Massage Therapy & Holistic Centre 780-738-4769.