Shoulder pain is a common issue, especially with athletes and manual laborers.
A number of factors play into shoulder issues, including limited upper back mobility, limited shoulder mobility, and instability in the shoulder.
Why do I feel a pinch or pain in the front of my shoulder?
Most times when people complain of shoulder pain, the pain is located on the front of the shoulder, typically pointing to the biceps tendon.
With all upper body activities, regardless if it is a push, pull, or press, your shoulder stabilizer muscles have to fire. Over time of repetitive and/or heavy lifting, the muscles develop tightness and possibly trigger points, most commonly in the lats, rotator cuff, and triceps. When this happens other muscles tend to take over activities they don’t normally have to do, resulting in a strain or overuse type injury. This typically shows up in the front of the shoulder, along the biceps tendon or in the anterior deltoid.
Why upper back mobility matters
The upper back (thoracic spine) needs some extension through it for proper mechanics when reaching overhead. If the spine does not extend like it needs to, the muscles in the shoulder have to work hard to try to get the arm fully overhead.
Short term, this is not necessarily a problem. Long term, like most people have going on due to the postures and habits we maintain, it is a huge problem.
With most of my shoulder clients, especially those doing a lot of overhead activities, I address the mobility in the upper back as well as the shoulder.
Why do shoulders get tight?
Many overhead athletes have issues with the shoulders getting tight with use. I see this frequently in crossfitters, swimmers, and gymnasts especially. So, why does this happen?
The shoulder is a complex region, requiring multiple muscles to fire both for stabilizing the joint and moving the joint. Overall, it does its job well with normal use and even repetitive use that occurs in athletes.
Over time with high repetitions or high weight, the muscles get fatigued with the overuse and develop tightness. If you continue to push through the tightness, other muscles then have to compensate to assist a motion. This is frequently when injuries in the form of muscle strains occur.
Exercises to improve your mobility
Thoracic mobility with foam roll
What if I am hypermobile, does that matter?
Hypermobility, joint movement more than normal, can actually be more problematic than tightness or stiffness in a joint. These are the individuals that you see standing with knees hyperextended, can hyperextended elbows naturally, or have crazy motion in their shoulders.
Individuals that are hypermobile need to focus more on keeping their joints stable. If the muscles do not support the joints well, they are more likely to dislocate a joint or easier strain muscles due to the increased stress placed on them to support the joint.
Shoulder stability exercises
Shoulder stability exercises with bands
Shoulder stability exercises with KB
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