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Elliot Page, Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor at Exeter Golf and Country Club shares his expert advice on shoulder pain and impingement, with tips on how exercise can alleviate pain and improve mobility.
“The most common forms of shoulder pain are exacerbated by pushing movements, for example any overhead pressing, bench press or even deltoid isolation exercises. I’ve coached many clients with shoulder injuries and I have experienced an impingement, myself, which stopped me from being able to efficiently train for a long period of time.
Shoulder impingement syndrome is a condition where your shoulder bursa and/or rotator cuff tendons are intermittently trapped and compressed during shoulder elevation movements. Shoulder impingement can be very painful. Persisting shoulder impingement may cause shoulder bursitis or a structural injury to your rotator cuff tendons (rotator cuff tendinopathy or rotator cuff tear).
The most common kind of injury to the rotator cuff in casual (weight)lifters is something called rotator cuff tendinitis, an inflammation or swelling of the tendons connecting your muscles and bones in your shoulder.
I certainly advise to see your doctor in case of an actual rotator cuff tear.
Fix your posture.
This is something you can start doing straight away if you have a rotator cuff injury and are still training in the gym. Even if you do not suffer shoulder pain, improving your posture is always something to work on as proactively tackling this will help prevent injury in the future. Muscles usually work in pairs or groups, e.g. the biceps flex the elbow and the triceps extends it.
This is called antagonistic muscle action. The working muscle is called the prime mover or agonist (it’s in agony!) The relaxing muscle is the antagonist.
This is relevant to your posture and your muscles perhaps being tight, its common for people to have tight muscles on the front of their body, due to a vast number of reasons, such as hunching over when sat, daily tasks like driving and eating – more front action movements! It’s also very common especially in men to train their chest muscles and bicep muscles a whole lot more than rear chain exercises.
This muscle tightness will pull on the joints and restrict movement resulting in shoulder pain or worse.
You need to train your posterior muscles (rear deltoids, external obliques, erector spine muscles, trapezius, posterior deltoids) in order to regain balance of your body’s muscles.
There are a whole lot of different exercises to help repair or prevent shoulder injuries, but I’ll explain the ones I have found to be the most successful with myself and clients.
Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles. External rotation
Retraction and protraction (weighted and non-weighted)
Face pull into press with cable or banded.
W press against wall
Honourable mention: Foam roller with bar hold – more of stretch but very valuable
Stretching is something most people really don’t get enough of, if you have shoulder pain stretching your muscles are key to your recovery.
Tennis ball rolling and foam rolling around pec and serratus muscles.
Improve your form and rep tempos for shoulder injuries.
You can start this proactively to avoid shoulder injuries, however if you have already suffered an injury then from here on out, performing exercises using correct form is essential. Stay retracted during exercises and keep shoulders back. Make sure you are using proper form when training and here’s some pointers.
Leaning and staying retracted when pressing etc
Keep spine straight and neutral
Use slower tempos in order to build a mind muscle connection and efficiently contract that muscle.
Impingements, rotator cuff tears and tendinitis.
One of the most common injuries I come across with clients experiencing shoulder injuries, include things like shoulder impingements, rotator cuff tears and tendinitis. If you are currently experiencing any of those, these three steps will help:
Overhead hang stretch
Strengthening the correct muscles
In order to get rid of shoulder pain we need to start strengthening the muscles that will pull the everything back into place.
External rotation exercise
Serratus exercises for protraction and retraction
Fix your posture
I cannot over-emphasize the importance of posture in improving shoulder mobility and reducing shoulder pain – remember chest up shoulders back and always practice picking up and putting down correctly.
More about the rotator cuff.
Symptoms of rotator cuff injuries vary by individual. They may include:
Pain in the shoulder area, usually described as a dull ache
Difficulty in moving your arm in daily activities, like combing hair
Weakness or stiffness in your shoulder muscles
Pain that increases at night, making it difficult to sleep on the affected side
Cracking or popping sounds when you move your arm
About Elliot Page
Elliot Page is a Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor at Exeter Golf and Country Club with experience working in the UK and Australia. Elliot finds thorough research is the key to success so that his training is truly tailored to the individual. He tends to keep away from basic exercises making his sessions inventive and very goal specific.
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