Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Preventing and Recovering From Shoulder Injuries

Protecting it from injuries is of paramount importance. It has been since the late 90's. When, as a power lifter, my left shoulder came apart under a 315 pound bench press set. Since then I have lived with some pain and stiffness in my shoulder. So, this piece is rather important to me in that it alleviates some of that pain. I also have a trick right shoulder that is now paying me back for all of those "trick" dislocations I enjoyed when I was younger.
First, let's understand exactly what we are talking about when we say “shoulder”:
  • The humerus (upper arm bone), the clavicle (collarbone), and the scapula (shoulder blade).
  • The scapulothoracic joint, which is located where the shoulder blade (the scapula) glides along the chest wall (the thorax).
  • The two large muscles the aubscapularis and the serratue. The subscapularis, attaches over the front of the scapula where it faces the chest wall. The serratus anterior attaches along the edge of the scapula nearest the spine. It passes in front of the scapula, wraps around the chest wall, and connects to the ribs on the front part of the chest.

That concludes that anatomy and physiology portion of this, so without any further adieu
1. Scapular press up
This exercise will work your serratus anterior muscle. This helps you to avoid 'winging' of your shoulder blade: your shoulder blade sits nice and flat on your rib cage rather than sticking out like a wing on your back.
Assume a press up position, body straight, core tight. Now, keeping your arms straight lower your body so that only your shoulder blades come together, then push back up to spread your shoulder blades. This is a very small movement.

2. Shoulder rotations
Grab a towel or resistance band and hold with tension so that your hands are a bit wider than shoulder width apart. Keep your elbows straight and still, lift your arms above your head and reach as far behind as is possible/comfortable. Return to waist and repeat. Maintain the tension on the towel at all times.  

3. Ball to wall stabilization
Stand facing a wall at arms length. Place a tennis ball in your hand and hold the ball against the wall at shoulder height. Using small movements start by drawing circles on the wall with the ball. Do this a few times with each hand. Then try a figure of eight or writing your name one letter at a time.
These two exercises will mobilize the small muscles (rotator cuffs) that control and stabilize the joint.

4. Circles 
You may remember these from school. Stand with your hands on your shoulders, elbows pointing out to the side and draw circles with your elbows. Start small and slowly get larger. Repeat in the opposite direction.

5. Symmetry
Push/Pull equally... the body NEEDS symmetry in strength of opposing muscle groups. When you do push ups, do pull ups or pull downs. If you do shoulder presses then do upright rows. This can NOT be stressed enough. Build in symmetrical strength to balance the joint or you will suffer the consequences later on.

6. Ball Rolling
Take a ball that is about softball sized, hold it against the wall at arms length, lean into it a bit, and step back so that you are now leaning forward. Keep your body square to the wall. Star making circles with your palm against the ball make small circles clockwise then counter clockwise. Start at 10 circles in each direction for two or three sets.

Now that you have tried a few of these exercises, here are some stretches to finish off with.
1. Maintain Full Shoulder Range of Motion.
Reach behind your neck with one hand while reaching behind your back with you other hand. Try to reach one hand with the other. Gently Pull with one hand and hold for 10 to 15 seconds for three sets. Now, switch hands and note any differences from one arm to the other.


2. Strengthen The Rotator Cuff Muscles

Internal Rotation:
Stand with your lifting arm closest to the cable machine, with your elbow flexed to 90-degrees. Rotate your hand from outside to inwards, bringing your hand towards your belly.

Or, kneel down by a bench and lean over to, say, your right side. With your right upper arm perpendicular to your body and your forearm perpendicular to your upper arm place a light weight (2 to 5 pounds to start) in your right hand. Allow the weight to bring your hand toward the bench and stretch just a little, touch the bench if you are able. Gently and smoothly raise your hand so that the weight is brought directly over your elbow. Now, repeat for 10-12 repetitions. Stop if there is pain or an unusual discomfort.

Sleeper Stretch instructions
Start the stretch by lying on your side, with your elbow at a 90 degree angle, directly across from your shoulder. Place your head on a pillow to keep your spine straight. While keeping your weight on your shoulder blade, gently lower your forearm with your opposite hand. You should feel a light stretch in the back of your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. Perform the Sleeper Stretch on your opposite side to compare tightness. Repeat the stretch 2-3 times per day until the right and left shoulders are equal.

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