Updated: Aug 11, 2020
Dealing with pain in the body can be a frustrating process. It can often be hard to identify what the true source of the issue is. More often than not, getting a massage or smashing into yourself with a lacrosse ball won’t necessarily fix any kind of muscular/tissue discomfort. It may provide some immediate relief, but the pain will likely return as it is a result of the way you move.
The shoulder in particular is an incredibly complex joint. At the expense of its near unrestricted range of motion, is the susceptibility to injury and dysfunction. When it comes to lifting weights especially, the shoulder is a common source of pain. More often seen with men, due to their high egos and tendency to try to lift heavier things than they probably should. Ah, the innocence and naivety of a man in his 20’s (yes the irony is clear). All joking aside, both men and women experience varying levels of shoulder/neck discomfort for a variety of reasons. This can lead to splitting headaches, neck immobility/stiffness, and shoulder pain when typing or writing.
IDENTIFYING THE CAUSE
If this blog could identify the exact root cause of everyone’s pain through the internet, then whoever writes this would be a millionaire. Acknowledging that there’s no way that can happen, this is a general approach to shoulder pain that has been proven to have some level of effectiveness.
If you experience ongoing shoulder pain, it stands to reason that it stems from something you are doing on a routine basis that has been ingrained in your movement pattern. With that in mind, it will take at least a couple months to really see sustained relief and progress. It all depends how regressed you are. If it took you 20 years to arrive in this position, then don’t expect it to take 4 days to correct.
Simply put, the focal point that you are having issues with on a repeated basis is the way you sit and stand. Posture is a very commonly misunderstood topic. You say the word “posture” in a room and instantaneously everyone pushes their lower back in to lift their chest and push their head forward. Two minutes later, they will all be back where they were originally, slouched forward, maybe with some newly formed lower back tenderness. Creating lasting postural changes takes a few steps, done repeatedly over time. Mobilizing your thoracic spine, and strengthening both the superficial, and deep rooted spinal muscles in your back, are amongst the main priorities.
The thoracic spine sits in the middle to upper portion of your back. Now your spine has natural curvature to it, and that’s meant to be so. This portion of your spine has a level of kyphosis, or rounding, that any healthy spine should have. The issue becomes when this rounding becomes too extreme, pulling your shoulders inward, and pushing your head and neck forward. Your head then becomes much heavier on your body to support and that’s when you can feel a lot of that neck tenderness that could come with headaches as well.
This portion of your spine, if restricted, can also limit your shoulder mobility and range of motion, thus making you susceptible to injury. So the first step is to get it loose basically.
Use these two movements here (2-3 sets of 10 reps) and you should begin to feel a little more freedom in your mid to upper back.
Next step would now be to strengthen the large and small muscles that support your back structure. The idea here is now that your T-Spine can move more freely, your shoulder can now move properly in sync with your humerus (scapulohumeral rhythm).
There are a number of exercises you can do here that would work your rhomboids, middle/lower traps, lats, multifidus, and other muscles in your back. Below are a couple of my favorites, but remember, almost any exercises that targets that mid-back portion of your body will help immensely with posture. And in turn, should give you some shoulder relief by pulling your shoulders into the position they should ideally sit in.
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Give these movements a try, go light with the weight, and with like anything else, if it feels bad or wrong, it probably is. Don’t just push through pain because you think it’s healing. Feeling the muscle/being aware of it is one thing and is generally fine during exercises. Pain is something you want to avoid when dealing with weight and load.
Don’t expect to do this routine once and have a shoulder that could lift Thor’s hammer. As detailed earlier, most pain stems from a long period of moving incorrectly. That being said, it’s going to take a decent amount of time to truly teach your body ideal movement patterns so that you experience less discomfort. Be patient and consistent with it, and you will begin to see the difference.