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SHOULDER PAIN? YOU NEED STRENGTH TRAINING


SHOULDER UP!

Fun fact: Did you know the shoulder is the most movable joint in the human body?  Who knew!

As a ball and socket joint, shoulders are structurally designed to allow for wide range of movement; and it’s a group of four muscles and their tendons, called the rotator cuff – giving the shoulder this range of motion, strength, and stability that we all love!

Just think about ALL the daily tasks and activities made possible because of the shoulder and its vast range of motion:

  • Getting dressed (unless you prefer to be in the nude)

  • Driving and putting on your seatbelt

  • Reaching up to grab what you need from the pantry shelf

  • Raking those fall leaves

  • Playing catch with your kids/grandkids!

  • Exercising!

  • Doing the “staying alive” dance when that Saturday night fever hits!

Basically, anything you are using your arms for requires use of the shoulder. And, because of this increased mobility, shoulder pain and injuries are extremely common, accounting for nearly 20% of visits to the doctor’s office.  Again, who knew?!

Shoulder pain and injuries may be caused by exercising with improper form, overuse injuries, age, or trauma.  Whatever the root cause, it can definitely make all those simple daily tasks such as driving, combing your hair, or even sleeping to become painful. 

If you have a shoulder injury, deal with chronic shoulder issues or occasionally suffer from shoulder pain, this blog is for you! 

Today’s blog is the last one in our 3-part series exploring the common issues we experience with age: chronic pain in our back, knees and shoulders. Today’s blog is dedicated solely to shoulder pain so you can get back to living pain without limited motion and movement! Here’s what you are going to learn:

  • Medical and lifestyle causes so you can be proactive and reduce your risks.

  • How strength training improves shoulder health and alleviates pain

  • Top 5 exercises to resolve and alleviate that pain so life feels GOOD again!


WHAT CAUSES SHOULDER PAIN?

There are many underlying factors when it comes to understanding shoulder pain. First, let’s talk about medical causes:

  • Arthritis: inflammation or degeneration of one or more joints.

  • Rotator Cuff Tendonitis and Tear: the most common cause of shoulder pain occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles get trapped under the bony area of the shoulder; causing the tendons to become inflamed, damaged or worst case, resulting in a tear. 

  • Overuse Injury: damage to bones, muscles, ligaments, or tendons as a result of repetitive use/stress.

  • Poor Shoulder Posture/Mechanics: can lead to the shoulder tendons becoming pinched and rubbing against the bony structures of the shoulder.

  • Frozen Shoulder: when the muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments of the shoulder become stiff making movement difficult or painful

  • Bursitis: inflammation of the fluid filled sac (bursa) that protects the joint and helps it to move smoothly.

  • Bone Spurs: bony projections along the bones edges that form over a long period of time as we age.

  • Broken Shoulder Bone: caused by trauma or degeneration.

  • Dislocation of the shoulder: caused by trauma or injury.

  • Shoulder Separation: caused by trauma or injury.

There are also several lifestyle factors:

  • Computer work/desk jobs: any job requiring extended time hunched over a computer/desk can lead to poor posture/body mechanics. Poor posture is a silent, underlying contributor to so much of the chronic pain we experience. Creating a space that is ergonomically friendly is very important and prevents our shoulders from rounding forward and our bodies to cave inward.

  • Handheld technology use: spending endless hours hunched over your phone/tablet contributes to poor posture and you guess it, shoulder pain.

  • Lifting weights with improper form: repetitive, weighted shoulder movements with bad form can cause tendon injury and strain. This is exactly why we always recommend working with our team of certified coaches or other trainers when strength training. If you are doing any exercise wrong, you put yourself at risk for injury.

  • Prolonged driving: driving posture and the way you sit in the car can contribute to back, neck and shoulder pain because your body is fixed in the same position, sometimes for hours on end.


BENEFITS OF STRENGTH TRAINING

It’s no secret we rely on and use our shoulders for just about everything we do during the day. This is exactly why shoulder health is so important, especially if you have injuries or pain. And, If your shoulders are functioning as they should, all the more reason to be proactive in caring for them.

Strength training is one of the most effective tools for promoting shoulder health and alleviating chronic pain – here’s how:

  • Strength training improves posture by pulling our shoulder blades down and away from our ears and back towards our spine so they sit properly on backside of the rib cage. In doing so, this takes unnecessary stress off our shoulder joint, neck, and low back. YES, all of this is accomplished by a well balanced strength training program!

  • Strength training strengthens (imagine that!) the muscles around the shoulder joint; creating more stability, power and better range of motion. When training, it’s important to pick the proper exercise, pain free range of motion and weights/resistance that allow for a wide variety of movement. All three are crucial in bulletproofing your shoulders!

  • Strength training allows you to live life better outside of the gym! You literally use your shoulders every day so why not enhance their function and performance (while reducing pain) so they last longer and you can continue doing what you love?

    For example, getting up and down off the floor, throwing a ball, fishing, painting, paddle boarding, playing with kids, carrying groceries, etc. – the list goes on! You see where I’m going with this. Bottom line, if you want to continue being active and doing what makes you happy, shoulder health is crucial!! This means focusing on exercises responsible for strengthening your shoulder joint: shoulder, shoulder blade and rotator cuff in order to have properly functioning shoulders.


TOP 5 EXERCISES FOR SHOULDER PAIN

Strengthening the muscles that surround your shoulder can help increase stability and mobility, therefore decrease pain. How do you go about strengthening those muscles? By incorporating these top 5 exercise into your workout routine. Each exercise are tools we use right here at Results Fitness to prevent, manage and ease the pain.

  1. Horizontal Rows : Rows can be performed using a resistance band or weights (barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell, cable machine) and focuses on moving the shoulders away from the middle of the body while helping to strengthen the posterior shoulder girdle (posterior deltoids and rhomboids) without compensating with our upper traps .  This overcompensation can often lead to shoulders being shrugged, causing pain in our neck and shoulders. 

    However, horizontal rowing allows the head of the humerus to remain neutral during abduction (moving shoulders away from the middle of the body) and helps strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blade, reducing stress on the front of the shoulder and neck. This seemingly simple exercise helps to prepare and protect the shoulder complex for strength training as well as any daily activity that may cause stress to the shoulder joint. 

  2. Dumbbell Floor Press: If you have shoulder pain or discomfort, this exercise is a great variation of the chest press. The dumbbell floor press is performed by laying on your back, pressing weights up and then lowering back down. Laying on the ground versus a bench reduces the tendency of our shoulders to get too low which can cause too much external rotation of the shoulder leading to pain.

    This exercise targets the chest, triceps and anterior shoulder muscles, helping to improve strength imbalances on each side. The floor press also allows you the capacity to change the angle of the shoulder and wrist during your lift to help reduce pain while strengthening the shoulder joint. 

  3. External Rotation with a Band or Dumbbell: External rotation targets the infraspinatus muscle, one of the most important muscles of the rotator cuff. The infraspinatus’ main job is to rotate the humerus (long upper arm bone) away from the body.  During exercise and life in general, we often do a lot of movements placing an external load on our shoulder joints, think blow drying your hair, reaching across to put your seatbelt on, or grabbing your backpack from the back seat.  Strengthening the infraspinatus using external rotation exercises has been proven to improve performance and prevent injury, especially when lifting overhead. 

  4. Front Raise with a Band or Dumbbell:  How many times per day do you lift something up? The lateral raise mimics this everyday movement by adding a small amount of resistance. Holding a weight in each hand, you raise both arms to chest height and then lower back down to your upper thigh.

    The front raise specifically targets the anterior deltoid muscle (muscle in the front of our shoulder).  This muscle is responsible for shoulder flexion, think raising your hand up in any degree away from your body. This exercise mimics daily life activities such as putting groceries on the counter or putting objects onto shelves at about shoulder height.  Strong shoulder muscles are required to lift objects safely and pain free. This exercise is also incorporated into most physical therapy routines following a shoulder injury or surgery. 

  5. Lateral Raise with a Dumbbell: Similar to the front raise expect now you are raising the weights laterally at your side. Start by holding a weight in each hand palms facing down and raise the weights to shoulder height and then lower back to your side.

    The lateral raise specifically targets the lateral deltoid muscle (muscle on the side of your shoulder), which is responsible for shoulder abduction ( moving your arms out and away from the sides of your body forming the letter “T”. ) Specifically targeting these muscles ensures joint stability and again, prevents injury.  Incorporating lateral raises into your strength training routine guarantees you are hitting all sides of the shoulder allowing for a stronger, healthier joint. 


HOW TO GET STARTED

Now that you’re considering strength training to help reduce and prevent shoulder pain, here are a few do’s and don’ts for getting started today:

  • Listen to your body!  If your shoulder becomes sore during any activity, DON’T ignore it.  Trying to push your way through or “tough it out” may only make it worse. If the pain doesn’t subside or worsens once you take a break from the said activity, you may need to consult a doctor. 

  • Watch how you move/sit during work.  Check your posture while at work, whether you’re sitting or standing.  If you sit at a desk all day, make sure your workstation is set up to allow for proper joint alignment and posture.  Take breaks every hour to get up, move around and stretch.  If your job requires lifting, be sure to incorporate proper lifting techniques using your legs keeping your back straight.

  • Don’t strain to reach for what you need.  Straining and overreaching can cause undue stress on the shoulder.  Use a stepstool or move objects to lower drawers/cabinets as needed. 

  • Check your sleeping routine.  If you sleep on your right or left side and experience shoulder pain on that side, flip to the other side or sleep on your back.  Using a pillow to help prop up the shoulder is also helpful in reducing pain. 

  • Increase your shoulder strength.  Come work with the RF coaches or other trainer to ensure you are exercising and using weights the right way with proper form.  Be sure to warm up prior to any strength training routine and start slowly! Avoid lilting too much all at once.

  • Rest and recover.  If you do injure your shoulder, take time to rest and recover.  At the same time don’t limit all shoulder movement.  Incorporate gentle stretches and mobility to keep your arm moving without overdoing it, in your pain-free range of motion. 

If you have questions or, need help getting started so you feel safe exercising, schedule your FREE strategy session by clicking the button below!

 

Keep living healthy, happy + strong!

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