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Planning Retirement Online

Home Exercise and Rehab

December 2012


Gina John Gina John is a Pilates Practitioner and Registered Osteopath who has spent many years offering help and advice, especially to the over 50 age group.

She is founder of The Osprey Clinic in the St. Johns Wood area of London and now specialises in Home Exercise and Rehabilitation Programmes. For further advice on exercising safely, and a selection of exercise films for general fitness and medical conditions, visit the website:



This month: exercises to help alleviate tired and stiff shoulders

Q: My shoulders have felt very tired and stiff after carrying shopping bags or after household chores. Will exercise help to resolve this problem? 

Shoulder pain which occurs with increased activity may arise either from the shoulder girdle muscles and joints directly, or from neck problems.

Many people assume that arthritis is causing their shoulder symptoms, but arthritis is more prevalent in the weight-bearing joints and the spine.

Shoulder symptoms commonly arise from the a group of muscles named the Rotator Cuff, or their tendons, which are susceptible to degenerative changes, and lead to shoulder pain and mobility problems.

Tendon degeneration generally occurs from repeated minor injury and damage to the fibres which make up the tendons connecting the rotator cuff muscles to the upper arm (humerus) and the shoulder bone (scapula). Tight muscles and joint imbalance leads to reduced blood flow and altered mechanical forces, increasing the risk of small tears forming in the tendons. However, around 30% of people in their 60s have these tears with no pain or noticeable weakness in their shoulders.

Biceps muscle connects to the front of the shoulder joint and may become inflamed when the shoulder girdle muscles are not working efficiently or may strain with sudden lifting or pulling movements. So, caution is required especially with lifting heavy bags and luggage.

Posture is the most important determinant of the efficient functioning of the muscles and tendons in the shoulder region, as this enables muscles to maintain their correct length and operate the joint efficiently. Rounded shoulders from carrying heavy bags incorrectly or extended computer usage are commonly responsible for the development of shoulder pain and acute shoulder conditions, such as tendinitis and frozen shoulder.

The upper part of the Trapezius muscle inserts into the shoulder blade and collar bone as well as the head and neck, so neck problems may quickly result in muscle imbalance or referred pain in the other shoulder girdle muscles. Degenerative changes in joints of the neck commonly affect how we turn the head and this leads to shoulder hunching. Additionally, inflammation and the mechanical effects of arthritis may irritate of nerves which run from the neck to the shoulder muscles, causing pain and muscle imbalance.

A daily programme of shoulder strengthening and stretching exercises will help to maintain correct posture and balance of the shoulder girdle, so that the muscles are more able to cope with increased activity or carrying.


Shoulder Strengthening Exercises

Neck Rolls
Sitting up straight and in a semi-circular action, take your left ear down to the tip of the shoulder, then lower you chin towards your chest. And finally, move your right ear towards the tip of the right shoulder. Then repeat, in reverse. Repeat 5 times.
Dumb Waiter Exercise
Sit or stand with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and keep them tucked into your waist while you open out your forearms, as far as you can without arching your back. By tensing your abdominal muscles it will help to keep your back straight. Keep pressing your shoulders down while you repeatedly open and close your forearms. Repeat up to 20 times, twice daily.
Dumb Waiter Exercise
Press Up at the Wall
Stand facing a wall with your arms straight and palms pressed against it. Slowly bend your elbows, inclining your body towards the wall and stretch your elbows to stand straight again. Keep tensing your abdominal muscles to support your back and press your shoulders down throughout the exercise. Repeat up to 20 times, twice daily.
Press up against the wall
Back of Shoulder Stretch
Take the right arm across your body, supporting it with the left hand. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, and repeat the stretch to the left arm. Repeat 2-3 times daily or whenever muscle tension occurs.
Front of Shoulder Stretch

Front of Shoulder Stretch
Clasp your hands behind the body and pull back your arms until you feel a stretch across the chest, shoulders and arms. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times daily or whenever muscle tension occurs.

Back of Shoulder Stretch

See all Gina's Home Exercise and Rehab features

Please send your questions for future columns, or feedback, by email to Gina John on

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