Shoulder pain is one of the most common problems treated by physiotherapists and sports physicians, and is particularly common in those who participate in health and fitness-related activities.
There is nothing more frustrating than shoulder pain interrupting your daily activities, keeping you awake at night or putting you on the sidelines watching your team mates compete or train.
Here are a few tips that my help prevent shoulder pain from starting or getting worse.
TIP 1: REST
If you notice shoulder pain during certain activities such as throwing a ball, swimming or hanging out the washing, stop that activity for a period of time and find an alternative exercise such as riding a stationary bike or using the dryer or a low clothes horse. Doing so can give your shoulder some time to rest and heal, while maintaining your cardiovascular fitness and still being able to do the jobs that need to be done and the things you love. During this time of rest, you can use some ice and always add a few gentle stretches to ensure you don’t develop a stiff shoulder. Your physiotherapist can advise you on the best stretches for your particular problem.
TIP 2: CHANGE YOUR SLEEPING POSITION
We spend on average 8hours a night sleeping. It is fair to say, if you spend all night sleeping on your sore shoulder your recovery will be very slow. If you notice pain in your right shoulder, don’t sleep on your right side. Try sleeping on your back instead – you can prop your arm up on a pillow to add support. If sleeping on your back is too uncomfortable, try sleeping on your left side with a pillow in front of you for your right arm to rest over.
TIP 3: INCREASE THORACIC SPINE MOBILITY
I am yet to see a shoulder-related problem that cannot be at least partly eased by the introduction of exercises to increase the mobility of the thoracic spine. The thoracic spine plays a significant role in loading (or unloading as the case may be) the glenohumeral joint. I encourage all patients to include a number of specific thoracic spine mobility exercises at the beginning of their rehabilitation. It is clear to see that this reduced range of motion in the thoracic spine leads to massive stresses being placed on the glenohumeral joint during most overhead exercises.
TIP 4: LIMIT OVERHEAD EXERCISES
Many gym training programs involve extensive overhead pressing movements. Intensive overhead movements are often overrated and can lead to shoulder problems. When you look more closely at the available range of motion in the typical military press, at the start of the movement the shoulders are already in 70 to 80 degrees of abduction, and, depending on the width of your grip, at the end of the pressing phase you may only be at 130 to 140 degrees. This equates to a movement of only 60 degrees at most. If you subscribe to the ‘time under tension’ philosophy for hypertrophy, then it stands to reason that this reduced range of motion will reduce available ‘tension time’ and, thus,reduce results. A better and more shoulder-friendly exercise is the closer grip barbell shoulder press, dumbbell shoulder press, or Arnold press, in which the movement begins lower down and follows a flexion/extension plane rather than the abduction/adduction plane. This allows a greater range of motion but also keeps the hands closer to the centre of the body and reduces shearing forces around the shoulder.
TIP 5: WARM UP BEFORE EXERCISE
Warm up before you work out. Exercising cold muscles is never a good idea. If you haven’t done a sport or exercise for a while, ease into it. Learn how to do exercises with correct technique and always listen to your body.
TIP 6: BEWARE OF SMALL MUSCLE OVERLOAD
It is easy for the stabilising muscles to be overloaded, especially by those who do hard gym training three to four times a week. These small rotator cuff muscles are easily fatigued if you do a routine such as chest on day one, shoulders on day two, and back on day three; even though it seems that you are only doing shoulder exercises on one day, the actual shoulder muscles are involved in all of these workouts.I recommend that more advanced trainers group the pressing movements into the same workout and never do shoulders as a stand-alone body part. The deltoid group as a whole will get plenty of training directly from a solid chest and back routine so they will rarely, if ever, require individual and intensive training. Be especially aware if you and your clients are involved in other shoulder-related activities such as tennis, swimming and surfing, as these activities will also drain your recovery powers and lead to overloading of the small stabilisers.
*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this discussion are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.