“Mommy” Shoulder

Caring for our kids is a full-time, physical job

Child care is physically and mentally demanding, it’s a labor of love.  Few occupations require such a high degree of physical and mental multi-tasking and only more so when there are two or more children.  This is not surprising considering how much is accomplished, often all while holding a small child on one arm. Of the work-related injuries I regularly encounter as a chiropractor, one that is commonly overlooked and neglected is one I call “mommy shoulder”. It is equal parts, neck pain, upper back pain and shoulder pain.  It is really  an overuse injury (or cumulative microtrauma injury) made symptomatic by the physical and emotional stress, the effects of decreased sleep and changes in the parents self-care  in general that occurs when caring for a child.

There are many contributing factors… this combination of factors has many effects on the body, often producing headaches, numb fingers and hands, neck pain and upper-back pain, as well as arm, elbow and wrist pain. This is not just a “muscle” or just a “joint” problem separately but rather multiple issues layered together. The strain on the body is intensified by changes in sleep, eating patterns, exercise and the mental stress.  Stress causes changes in the chemistry of the body making it more prone to acute joint pain,  tendinitis and myofascial pain syndrome.  (Office workers and triathletes don’t have it all to themselves)  Like other repetitive stress injuries, symptoms often develop slowly and silently. To only suddenly become painful. These injuries often seem to appear for little or no reason.  As this continues it often can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of chronic irritation and injury (see cumulative injury cycle).


What you’ve always done no longer working?

Traditional treatments, such as ice, heat, and anti-inflammatory medication are what most try first. Often they offer only temporary or partial relief.   Fortunately there is additonal help to be had. Additional methods of treating this condition:

First a complete history and evaluation of the neck, upper back, shoulder and its related areas is necessary.  Once the affected structures are identified they are treated using  Chiropractic adjustments and Active Release Technique. The adjustment restores proper alignment and motion, while the Active Release Technique restores the muscle function by reducing and eliminating tension and scar tissue.  This ends the painful cycle allowing for the parent to recover and fully function again.  Additionally, by addressing lifestyle factors we mentioned above we can produce a much greater impact by “peeling back” layers of contributory causes.  Diet, Rest, Exercise, Alignment (with Chiropractic and ART) and Mindfulness are all factors that can be optimized no matter what the condition. In shoulder tendonitis or “mommy shoulder” they have a significant impact.  That will be the topic of our next post.

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