Headstand to help shoulder pain?

September 5, 2011 at 16:50 Leave a comment

I was reading International Herald Tribune on our flight back from France on the 3rd of August this year when something interesting caught my eye. Jane E. Brody was writing about treatments that “don’t cost an arm and a leg” in which she describes physiatrist Loren Fishman and his innovative methods.

What in particular was fascinating was a treatment developed for people with shoulder pain by Dr Fishman’s. Since yoga exercises form nowadays a centerpiece for his practice, this one was also a modified yoga pose: a headstand without actually requiring standing on your head. Done only for 30 seconds (sometimes combined with a little physiotherapy) for five different sessions this maneuver should ease the pain caused by a rotator cuff syndrome. The benefits matched and sometimes exceeded those following physical therapy alone or surgery and rehabilitation. ON a follow up yoga treated patients maintained the initial relief for as long as they were studied, up to eight years.

The mechanism behind this method is that the modified headstand trains subscapularis , the muscle below the shoulder blade, to take over the job of the injured muscle, supraspinatus. When normally it’s supraspinatus that raises the arm from below chest height to above the shoulder, after the headstand subscapularis will take that job.

According to Dr. Fishman, this doesn’t work for everybody, like for string musicians whose shoulder muscles are overtrained, but it has helped approximately 90% of his 700 patients. Not bad for a yoga pose!


Entry filed under: Occupational Therapy. Tags: , .

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