3 Steps to Fewer Gym Based Shoulder Injuries
In my chiropractors office in windy little Wellington NZ I see a huge number of minor gym and exercise based shoulder injuries, many of which show up in quite a persistent and stubborn state.
The typical ‘shoulder person’ often finds that their shoulders feel fine until they start a new exercise routine. With new gym routine under way though they develop stubborn shoulder pain that limits what they can do and also how good they feel day to day. The pain can be around the back in behind the shoulder blade and also in the actual rotator cuff area.. often its both.
Before I offer 3 basic actions you can take to sort/prevent your shoulder problems I just want to make it clear that I will be leaving the ultimate solution off this list. The ultimate solution is to stop sitting at a desk for 30+ hours a week. I am going to make a call and say that 99% of the shoulder injuries i have treated over that last 2 decades have had their roots in chronic postural stress.
Slouching forward over time drops our spine, ribs and shoulder blades forward which over time puts huge stress and strain on the shoulder tissues. Desk workers are predisposed to shoulder injuries the way smokers are predisposed to chest infections .. thats life. All this said I know that you do need to put food on the table I am going to leave this point here and give some slightly more practical solutions than quitting your job.
This alone is usually a game changer for most chiropractic patients with shoulder pain. Narrow your grip while doing all ‘pressing’ movements at the gym!!! especially shoulder press!!! The wide grip that we tend to take on a bar puts unnatural strain on the shoulders when pressing.
A narrow grip that we would tend to take with 2 dumbbells… holding the elbows closer to the body makes the shoulder move with less stress. On machines choose the narrowest grip options and keep your elbows and arms more compact .. you’ll be stronger and have less pain.
Stick your chest out while you work. Part of the postural change that so many of us seem to suffer with and that leads to shoulder injuries is a slightly sunken chest. Imagine in your minds eye the classic teenage posture.. its super obvious in teens but most of us do a bit of it (myself included). The remedy is to gently push our heart / sternum forward and drop our shoulder blades a cm or 2 down our backs.
When its time to move weights around at the gym give at least half your awareness and attention to having a big chest and low shoulder blades.. it can be a slightly self conscious feeling at first but your a big boy/girl you can handle that. Use the mirror in gym to see how different you look when you focus on this postural adjustment.
Get your ribs manipulated by an expert. I would say that of the people I see with stubborn shoulder pain 100% have become locked up in their ribs (tucked in behind the shoulder blade). A percentage are at the point where they feel an annoying tight or painful sense of a knot in behind the shoulder blade. Many however don’t feel anything in that area but are still locked up there and experience greta relief once it is worked on. Too much sitting in the wrong alignment leads the ribs to lock over time which cripples the rotator cuff.
A simple rib adjustment in most cases leads to immediate increase in comfort and range of motion in the shoulder. For many it borders on seeming miraculous that several years of limitation can vanish in a moment. I would argue though that it isn’t particularly miraculous. If you had left a splinter in your finger for 6 months and I came along and got it out for you along with all the pus that had built up you could easily feel a sense of immediate relief; adjusting ribs isn’t much different (although there is no infection of course) because its an immediate much needed physical release within the body.
Whether your a chiropractic person and have chiropractors work on you or you prefer physiotherapy, massage or osteopaths these basic principles will help you to avoid the whole lot of us much more often.. which lets face it is the whole idea.