Yoga is an ancient practice that is getting a surge of interest among men and women of all ages today. Even children are being exposed to yoga poses as a form of stress control and exercise. The practice has a lot to offer. However, yoga teachers report seeing an increasing number of shoulder injuries among their clients. With the shoulder being such a complex part of the body, this doesn't surprise us. Here, we will look at shoulder impingement related to yoga, and how to protect yourself.
A Look at the Impinged Shoulder
When we lift an arm above the head, the humerus, or head of the arm bone, rotates into the acromion of the scapula. The humerus is covered by the 4 muscles of the rotator cuff. Bursa sacs are situated between the acromion and the muscular capsule that holds the joint. Their role is to cushion friction and pressure so the joint is not injured.
Consistent lifting of the arm overhead causes friction and pressure on the bursa sacs, as well as on the acromion. As a result, inflammation may occur in one or both places. Bursitis describes inflammation in the bursa, and tendonitis describes inflammation of the muscles and tendons that support the shoulder. If impinging action continues repetitively, inflammation could become progressively worse. If it does, the shoulder may lose optimal mobility and comfort.
So, no Sun Salutations?
If you are a yogi of any level, you know that there are several times in each class at which your arms are over your shoulders to some degree. Does the risk of impingement mean you have to give up your practice? Not necessarily, let's look at some ways you can protect yourself from inadvertent shoulder injury.
- Rather than lift hands overhead through a sideways motion (sun salutation), consider raising them in a forward position. This minimizes the pressure on the head of the arm bone as arms go overhead.
- In a pose like Extended Side Angle, where the arm is lifted but in line with the neck, position your hand carefully so the palm faces the body. This will rotate the arm bone externally, reducing pressure from the head of the arm bone to the acromion.
- If shoulder pain persists long after you're off your mat, consult with a physician. Doing so may be the best way to make sure you can continue your practice without extensive injury.
Our friendly team is happy to schedule an appointment for you in one of our New Jersey orthopedic practices. Call (973) 942-1315.