Balloon Therapy for Shoulder Pain. Just a lot of hot air?
At Peak Performance Physical Therapy, you may see a patient blowing up a balloon next to another patient who is pushing a 250-lb. sled across the turf filed. This may seem like an odd exercise in treatment of patients with common musculoskeletal disorders. However, it is a treatment that is gaining traction among physical therapists and athletic trainers in the treatment of professional athletes, weekend warriors, Crossfit enthusiasts and patients with chronic pain and postural dysfunction. How can blowing into a balloon help a patient with a spine, hip, knee or shoulder disorder? The human body is naturally asymmetrical because of our anatomy. For example, we have a heart on the left side, a liver on the right side and a larger and stronger hemidiaphragm on the right side of the body. Adding fuel to the fire, we naturally stand with more weight on the dominant leg, (usually right) reach more with the right arm and rotate the trunk more towards the non-dominant arm during walking. This results in predictable asymmetrical patterns, such as a lower right shoulder, tilted or rotated spine or pelvis or the appearance of a longer or shorter leg. These asymmetries will lead to additional stress on the back, neck, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle.
Value of Balloon Therapy
You have probably heard how important it is to train “the core”, a reference to the abdominal and hip muscles. However, there is a more important core muscle that cannot be trained with planks, crunches, old-school crunches, sit-ups or any machine, free weight or new gadget seen on Saturday morning or late night infomercials. The muscle is the diaphragm and the way to train it is to blow into a balloon. How important is the diaphragm? This huge muscle controls the position of our ribs, which in turn, controls the position of out spine. It has a tremendous impact on how much our chest wall expands during breathing, which ultimately effects oxygen delivery to our tissues. By performing “balloon therapy” exercises in very specific positions, we can selectively turn on some muscles, while shutting down other muscles. These progressive postural re-training exercises are combined with stretches, hands on mobilization, massage and core strengthening to round out a complete rehabilitation program. Check out some of the videos! Please feel free to e-mail Peak Performance with any questions.
This article was written by Peak Performance Physical Therapist, Bob McCabe, DPT, OCS, CSCS, FMS, SFMA.