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7 Tips to Stop Shoulder Pain While Lifting, Pushing, Pulling, and Carrying Objects

This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in January of 2021 . For the original video go to

Bob: Today, we're going to go over seven, your favorite number. Seven tips to stop shoulder pain while lifting, pushing, pulling, and carrying objects. In other words we're trying to cover everything you're going to run into it while you're in life, basically.

Brad: Yes, your daily needs of the shoulder.

Bob: Yep. So let's go ahead and get started here, Brad. Number one, you want to avoid really awkward and also end-it range positions with a painful shoulder. So the most common one is like reaching into a back seat.

Brad: So you're going up, back, and over or back and over. That is even more painful.

Bob: Right? I think about... Like let's say, if you have a painful shoulder, you probably shouldn't be throwing a ball.

Brad: No.

Bob: Especially throwing a football. You bring the arm back and you're really back in end range there. And the shoulder does not like that. That puts a lot of stress on the rotator cuff, so.

Brad: That's why pitchers can only pitch not even a full game. And then they pitch one game or whatever and then they have to wait a few days.

Bob: Perfect example on that. And these are young people.

Brad: Yeah, they're young and they train for it.

Bob: Right? Right. So number two, avoid overhead lifting and repetitive or prolonged position. So when your shoulder’s hurting, you really want to avoid having that arm above level, unless your occupation requires it. Especially things like painting or pruning a tree.

Brad: Right. Right. Exactly. Washing windows.

Bob: There we go. I bet you do that a lot. Don't you Brad?

Brad: I was going to wash my car window yesterday but then I said, nah.

Bob: I don't think that'd be over your head.

Brad: Well, it was on the van, it was a tall one. I have to get on the ladder for that one.

Bob: Number three, avoid forceful pulling. So this is going to be the worst one by far, the lawnmower or a something with a pull cord.

Brad: Lawnmower, chainsaw, something where you've got to give it a good forceful pull.

Bob: Chainsaw, jeez. I had a chainsaw that just wouldn't start and I tell ya...

Brad: Was it electric?

Bob: No, it wasn't electric. What's that sound. But I pulled and pulled on that thing and I never did get started.

Brad: They can be ornery.

Bob: Yeah. So especially when it hasn't been used in a couple of years. A suitcase, picking up a suitcase, especially a heaving one. You know, nowadays they have so many of those suitcases that have wheels on them. So you really don't need to lift them very often.

Brad: Yeah, that is a real benefit for your back and your shoulder. But you know, opening and closing a heavy door where you anticipate it and you give it a jerk to open it for whatever reason, if it's sticky or heavy. What about walking a dog?

Bob: Oh that's a good point.

Brad: I’ve had more patients that come in that either injured their shoulder when their black lab gave him a jerk or they had an injured shoulder and even their little Chihuahua re-injured their sore shoulder because they're jerking on them.

Bob: And I guess, if you have one good shoulder, you really want to have the leash in that hand.

Brad: Right. It's kind of one of those habit things.

Bob: No it is.

Brad: You use your right hand without thinking about it, so you know.

Bob: Some of those dogs will pull you right off your feet.

Brad: Right. Yeah. Maybe someone else can walk the dog and you can walk with them.

Bob: So the last one, is pulling weeds.

Brad: Oh. Crab grass.

Bob: Yeah.

Brad: Oh my goodness. It's that time of year right now.

Bob: So we use a blow torch, now to blow these things.

Brad: Yeah. I like that idea a lot.

Bob: Natural and just kills them that way. Number four, this is one that a lot of people don't think about. You really want to make sure you have good posture when you're working at a desk or let's say even your arm is just level. You want to make sure that you have good posture. Because if I'm hunched over my arm just doesn't go up as high. It's just, this is as far as it goes.

Brad: You see slouched forward at the mid back, head forward, posture, rounded shoulder.

Bob: And you'll find this if you try this at home. If you lean forward like this and bend and lift the arm as far as can, you feel it's run up against a barrier or a wall. Straighten out my posture, now I can lift my arm all the way up. So what that is doing in effect is if you're working at, let's say a white board or smart board, or you're painting, or driving a car even with the arms level. You're getting a little bit of impingement, if have bad posture, that is.

Brad: Right. Yep.

Bob: So as therapists we're really happy when we can try to correct your posture. Because that's what we do for a living, right Brad.

Brad: Oh, right. Well, it covers so many things. Yes.

Bob: Number five, keep your elbows at your side. This is what I tell a lot of my patients, your... These muscles of the shoulder, the rotator cuff are really small, short muscles. And they've got to lift your big, long arm, and this is basic physics, right Brad.

Brad: Right.

Bob: Long lever arm. And so they have to generate a lot of force. The farther your hand is away from the body, the more stress is going to be on your shoulder.

Brad: Right.

Bob: So just simple.

Brad: So if you're at a desk, get the mouse in, get your phone in, get everything in close. You do not have to reach out if you're at a work bench, make sure you can reach things. I call it the work box, right in front of your belly button basically so your reaching at that level.

Bob: Right. At that level. In that level between your belt and your shoulders.

Brad: Yeah. I don't even like to go that high. I like that nipple level to the belt and keep it there, if you can. Arrange things so that you're not reaching if possible.

Bob: I used to know this older therapist that he used to give presentations and he was a wonderful speaker but he’d always say this joke, "Oh, I know you're going to have two problem areas when you're trying to do that, wet babies and garbage." You know, trying to keep them close, it's a little difficult.

Brad: Yeah.

Bob: So number six, avoid any movement or activity or position that causes pain. Now this is like, if your hand hurts when you hammer it, stop hammering it.

Brad: Right.

Bob: This is just common sense though. If your shoulders hurting, we're trying to get it to calm down and to get it to calm down you don't keep working something thinking the pain is going to eventually go away.

Brad: Yeah. Some people have the old school, you know, no pain, no gain. I'm going to work through the pain. It's going to get better. It's probably not, it's only going to get worse.

Bob: Yeah and a lot of times what happens is your nerves start to get kind of hyper-sensitive. So they fire off, your pain nerves. They fire off with just very little provocation, you know. So it doesn't take much. But you get them calmed down once. Then it takes a lot more to fire them up.

Brad: The hypersensitivity.

Bob: Yeah, exactly. And number seven, if you are forced to do any of the previous six things, we say stop every few minutes and you want to stretch your arm back. If you picture your right arm behind your back and the left hand grabbing the right wrist. And just pull it back behind you, give it a stretch. It's going to kind of rebalance out the shoulder and then you can go back to doing the task again.

Brad: Yeah. It's a gentle stretch and you don't have to hold it for 30 seconds. You just make pressure on pressure off a few times. If your shoulder happens to be so sore, that that hurts. Well, then you may want to go to the pendulum and just leave your arm relaxed and bend over. You bend over like your arm is an elephant trunk. I tell patients and just the weight of the arm creates traction completely relaxed.

Bob: Yeah, This just happened to me recently, I had to do some drilling above head. And it's just like you said, I shook the arm out a little bit, every 30 seconds or so. And then I'd go back.

Brad: When muscles get fatigued and tightened up and they don't get the blood supply because they're so tightened up and knotted up. You need to get those muscles to relax. So you get an inrush of fresh blood and get the old blood out of there, and that lactic acid and what not.

Bob: Now, if you want to remember this list or have actually a copy of it. You just go to our website,, go to the program section under the programs we have an entire series of videos on shoulder pain. And that's what this one is part of. And under it, you'll look for this title. Seven tips to stop shoulder pain, while lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying objects. When you find it, below it there'll be a PDF that you can print out.

Brad: Print it out and it's a great reminder. Put it on your mirror in the bathroom so you can read it every day. You'll have it memorized and next thing you know, life is good.

Bob: Yup. Alright, thanks everybody for watching and listening.

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