How To Fix Shoulder Pain for Athletes

Posted on 28. Dec, 2010 by in Exercises, Injuries / Rehab, Physiology, Strength & Power

How To Fix Shoulder Pain for Athletes

A swimmer sent in a video looking for advice on how to alleviate pain in his shoulder.

In addition to being a competitive swimmer this guy is also a body builder.  He’s beginning to see pain in his shoulders during competition and his more intense workouts.

What can he do?

First of all, we all need to realize that sports and other activities that involve repeating the same motion over and over again can be responsible for creating what is called pattern overload.

What that means is that if you are swinging a bat, a golf club, a tennis racket, performing a swimming stroke, pedaling a bike or any of a countless number of motions in which you repeat that same motion over and over again you can set yourself up for an imbalance.

What happens is that your body becomes more and more efficient with every repetition of a given exercise.  At a certain point that efficiency becomes somewhat problematic, the muscles and nervous system become so sensitive to that movement pattern that the muscles become hyper tonic.

That hypertonicity is the imbalance we’re talking about.   In the case of the shoulder joint, the muscles on the front side of the joint are tighter than the back side.

This causes the bones of the joint, here the humerus and the scapula, to be out of ideal alignment.  The humerus is pulled forward and out of its instantaneous axis of rotation.  Movement in this misalignment causes pain in the soft tissues of the joint.

Now in the case of our swimmer, this guy is also a body builder.  Which means that many of the exercises he’s performing, biceps curl, bench press, etc., are also exacerbating his condition and adding to his shoulder pain.

So, what to do?

The short answer is, “Pick your sport.”  If you’re a competitive athlete there is a limit to the benefits of cross training.  As in the case of our swimmer, we can see where bodybuilding is having a negative affect on his swimming.  Mixing it up on occasion can be beneficial but training two opposing sports with different goals makes you average in both at best.

This is not to say that weight training can’t be helpful in rehabbing the shoulder but the focus will be decidedly not a traditional bodybuilding style approach.

Forward flexion based exercises like the curl and the bench press are to be avoided because those muscles are already over developed.  The biceps, pec major and minor and the rotators all need to be stretched, repeatedly and often.  Work on stretching those muscles 5 or 6 times a day.

The muscles that do need to be worked are the posterior muscles, those of the upper back and shoulders.  That includes rhomboids, rear delts, mid and lower traps, latissimus dorsi, teres major and minor and the other muscles of the rotator cuff.  Think lots and lots of rows and row variations.  Bench rows, bent over rows, recline rows, pull ups, and rear delt flys will all target these muscles and help you begin to correct that imbalance.

Training with an eye for balance will do wonders for your athletic ability helping you avoid both injury and pain.

Get Stronger!

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