In my time as an orthopedic surgeon and as someone who helps throwing athletes and weightlifters maximize their performance, I’ve seen one problem sideline promising athletes over and over again: shoulder pain. Shoulder pain can have many different causes, but the good news is that it’s preventable with smart training strategies.
Good shoulder health starts with the two Ps: posture and prehabilitation (prehab). Posture is how you stand, sit, move and carry yourself. Prehab is an exercise routine that is designed to prevent injuries.
Proper Posture Prevents Pain
When you think of good posture, what comes to mind? Chances are, you’re thinking of someone standing tall and straight, head up and forward, strong spine, chest out, shoulders back and down. That’s the proper way to stand.
Shoulders are a huge part of good posture. If you let your shoulders round forward and slump, you increase the chance that the muscles and tendons of the rotator cuff or a lubricating sac called the bursa get caught on a bony outcrop on the collarbone called the acromion process. This is called shoulder impingement. The result? Pain.
Instead, pull your shoulder blades up and back, then let them relax down your back. This will give your rotator cuff and the shoulder bursa plenty of room to maneuver, reducing the risk of shoulder impingement. This is especially important for anyone who does overhead work, such as pitchers, quarterbacks and any weight lifting involving overhead work (overhead press, clean and jerk, snatch, etc.).
Shoulder Stabilization Exercises
Good posture is a good start for safe, healthy shoulders, but it might not be enough. What you’ll need next are shoulder stabilization exercises.
First, a quick anatomy lesson: The scapulae, or shoulder blades, act as platforms for a number of muscles. The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, but it is not very stable. The joint relies in large part on the rotator cuff for stability, and rotator cuff safety starts with the scapulae.
Scapular stabilization exercises will help your shoulder blades stay in the right place and provide a solid platform for many muscles of the upper body. Exercises can be done with any number of tools: exercise machines, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, your own bodyweight and more. Speak with your orthopedics specialist to determine safe weights to use.
Here are some movements to increase your shoulder stabilization:
Prone or bent-over rows: Lie flat on a bench or a bed, or stand and bend at the waist. Hold a barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell with your arm hanging straight down. Pull the weight toward your chest.
Face pulls: This exercise requires a pulley machine. Use the rope attachment and set the weight to light or moderate. Grasping both ends of the rope, pull it towards your head. Separate your hands so they are next to each ear at the finishing position.
Lateral raises: Stand or sit with a dumbbell in each hand. Raise the weights straight out to your sides until your arms are parallel to the floor and your hands are pointing toward the left and right. A variation of this exercise is to hold the weights with your elbows at a 90-degree angle, and finishing the movement with the knuckles of each hand facing front.
Internal rotation: Attach a resistance band to something solid. Grab the band in one hand and extend your arm so your hand is pointing to the band’s anchor. Pull the band across your body until your arm is crossed over your chest.
External rotation: Attach a resistance band to something solid. Grab the band in one hand so that your arm is crossed over your chest. Pull the band across your body until your arm is stretched out to the side.
If you are experiencing shoulder pain, we can help. Request an appointment with me or any of my colleagues to get started on a diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.