The most flexible joint in the body, the shoulder and the supporting muscles around it are subject to plenty of wear and tear, making them prone to injuries and degenerative ailments. Shoulder health and overall strength are important to a wide range of daily activities and quality of life.

While shoulder injuries are common among athletes and people who perform repeated overhead motions like swimmers or baseball pitchers, other factors like poor posture or alignment can also lead to shoulder pain and problems.

Endeavor Health sports medicine specialist Shaheen Jadidi, DO, offers strategies to protect and improve range of motion and strength for long-term shoulder health and viability.

“The shoulder is not a weight-bearing joint like the knee or hip, but its complex anatomy and small muscles are exposed to accelerated wear,” said Dr. Jadidi. “Just holding a pound of weight and moving it away from the body adds ten times the force to the shoulder.”

Among the most common injuries are tears or strains of the rotator cuff — the four muscles and tendons that surround and stabilize the ball and socket joint — and tears of the labrum, the cartilage that surrounds the socket, explained Dr. Jadidi.

Good posture and proper alignment are really important for shoulder health,” said Dr. Jadidi. “Unfortunately, all of our time on phones and computers have changed peoples’ posture. Tech neck increases the wear and tear on the shoulders.

When working at a computer the monitor should be at eye level and you should be able to sit and type with your shoulders relaxed, said Dr. Jadidi. Taking regular breaks to stand and walk around, can help and when standing think about moving your shoulders down your back rather than having them creep up toward your ears, he added. “Motion is lotion and keeping things moving helps improve flexibility.”

Most people don’t realize how much stress they put on their shoulders in many forms of exercise including workout classes with weights, yoga and many court sports, said Dr. Jadidi.

“Warming up is very important. Dynamic moves like arm circles and cross body arm swings help prep the shoulder for exercise,” he said. Any time your arm is touching the ground, like in a downward dog or plank pose, the rotator cuff is working to engage the shoulder. And when holding dumbbells the farther away they move from the body, the more force on the shoulder.

It can be hard to target and strengthen the smaller muscles in the rotator cuff, and many weightlifters focus on the bigger muscles for the “power beach” aesthetic, which can lead to imbalances that don’t help stabilize the shoulder.

Working with an experienced physical therapist or trainer to develop a home exercise program that safely strengthens the shoulder and rotator cuff is a great way to start a healthy shoulder program, said Dr. Jadidi. Working with resistance bands and stretching against a doorway are simple, effective exercises that can be done at home without expensive equipment.

“People come to see us when they are already hurt, we’d love to have more people focused on prevention and doing the kind of strength and stability work to avoid injuries,” said Dr. Jadidi.

However, if you experience a new injury, or sharp pain that does not get better within a few days of rest it is important to check in with a physician sooner rather than later to help treat and resolve the problem.

“It can be a cruel joint for the aging population as the rotator cuff wears down over time with activity,” he added.