The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in your body. It can perform a wide range of motion and because of this, your shoulder joint is also unstable and more prone to injuries such as shoulder dislocation, rotator cuff tears, shoulder impingement, and shoulder arthritis.

Research has shown that shoulder pain is more commonly observed in women and the older adult population as well as in overhead athletes due to complex throwing mechanisms and excessive stress on the shoulder joints. In the working population, shoulder pain is associated with repetitive shoulder movements, strenuous activities, and posture.

To keep your shoulders strong and healthy, and to lower your risk of shoulder injury, check out these expert tips and reminders.

Get your posture right.

While everyone thinks that posture is always linked with the alignment of your neck and back, having a poor posture also affects your shoulders. For example, when you’re slouching, your back tends to move forward causing a misalignment to your shoulder blades. Hence, you’re likely to experience shoulder pain.

To reduce the stress on your shoulders, fix your posture. Sit up straight, avoiding prolonged bouts of sitting, and engage in regular exercise.

Warm up properly before doing intense physical activities.

Before you dive into your workout program, do a few shoulder stretches. Prepare your shoulders and your arms by doing targeted warm-up exercises. It has been shown that warming up before doing any core exercises helps your body eliminate joint stiffness. Warming up also improves your body’s heart rate and circulation preparing it for an intense physical activity.

Do shoulder strengthening exercises.

To prevent shoulder injuries secondary to a weak shoulder, do some shoulder strengthening exercises. You can use weights such as dumbbells to strengthen your shoulder joints and muscles. You may also do front and lateral dumbbell raises to strengthen your shoulders.

If you don’t have dumbbells, try alternative workouts to improve your shoulder strength such as jumping jacks and arm circles. When doing jumping jacks, make sure that your arms are raised all the way above your head. For arm circles, hold your arms straight to the sides with palms facing up. Rotate your arms 20 times in a clockwise direction. Without putting them down, rotate them again in a counterclockwise direction for the same number of reps.

Wear shoulder protectors and braces.

To keep your shoulders safe from harm, wear shoulder protectors or shoulder braces especially when engaging in sports activities. When you play contact sports such as rugby, soccer, football or hockey, you need protective equipment for your shoulders.

There are a variety of shoulder protectors that you can choose from depending on your needs including shoulder supports, braces, straps, pads, and immobilizers. If you’re unsure of what shoulder protector to use, consult your doctor or physiotherapist.

Avoid carrying heavy objects.

Carrying heavy objects can put a strain on your shoulders. When you force yourself to carry or lift heavy objects, especially over your head, you might suffer from a rotator cuff injury. The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles that stabilize and surround your shoulder joint. A rotator cuff injury usually results from frequent overhead shoulder movements.

If carrying heavy objects can’t be avoided, at least use an equipment to help you with your lifting. You can use levers, pulleys or wheels to move a heavy object from one place to another.

Eat healthy foods.

Another way of strengthening your shoulders is by eating healthy foods. Calcium-rich foods such as milk, kale, sardines, yogurt, broccoli, cheese, and almonds aid your bone health. A high-protein diet is also important to ensure your muscle health.

Ensuring shoulder health entails a lot of discipline and coordinated activities. Since your body structures are interconnected with one another, everything you do may affect the health condition of your shoulders. From fixing your posture down to what you eat and drink, your shoulder health all depends on you.