Your Shoulder
Whole Body Health

Te Oraka o te Katoa o te Tinana

Whole Body Health


The body is like a whānau (extended family), where each part of the body is a member. If everyone in the whānau is strong and healthy, they can be there to help a member of the family who may temporarily need more support. It’s the same when treating a painful shoulder (or other parts of the body); we are much more likely to be successful at reducing pain if we also take care of the rest of our body.

We need to look after our whole body health in order to look after our shoulders.  Our health includes physical (taha tinana), mental (taha hinengaro), spiritual (taha wairua) and family and social well-being (taha whānau). When we are unwell or have pain, we need to look after all of those dimensions: we should strengthen our muscles and become fitter (physical body); look after our attitudes, social and spiritual connections, and perhaps it is also helpful to connect with nature (whenua). All of those dimensions have an impact on our health, how we move, and how we feel pain.  

Our health and well-being influence our joints, tendons, muscles and nervous system. If we live with a long term health condition (such as diabetes or disorders of the lungs, heart or circulation), are overweight or smoke we may be more prone to shoulder (and other musculoskeletal) pain. The pain may last for a longer period of time if you have such conditions or habits. To take care of our shoulder pain, we need to also take care of our overall health and well-being. 

Lifestyle influences how we feel about ourselves. Our health choices include what we eat, drink, whether we smoke, how we sleep and manage stress, and if we are getting enough whole body movement and exercise.  

The shoulder is perfectly suited for movement. That means that it needs movement to remain healthy. All of your movements are controlled by your brain. The brain prepares the best combination of movement to achieve your goal, for example getting a cup out of a cupboard or throwing a ball for your dog. That requires movements from many members of the ‘body whānau’ or joints – from the neck, the upper back, the collarbone joint, the shoulder blade and the shoulder joint, besides the elbow and all the joints of the wrist, hands and fingers. The trunk and legs also add to the strength of the shoulder. 

In summary, to look after our shoulder pain, we need to consider the ‘body whānau’:

  • Move: improve our fitness and strengthen our body

  • Take care of health conditions we might be living with

  • Eat well

  • Sleep well

  • Connect with others, do something that is meaningful to us, and take up a challenge

  • Connect with nature: for example, a regular walk or exercises in green spaces, the beach, or just down the road.