Prehab Not Rehab

The human movement system functions optimally when the interdependent aspects of the body align and move in the proper fashion. Examples of shoulder injury resulting from poor posture and muscular imbalances made worse by lifestyle are numerous. In particular, the imbalanced muscular development of some athletes and the continual forward, slumping posture of many other people may result in shoulder pain. Compression of the rotator cuff muscles is common among weight lifters and athletes in throwing sports, but also in desk workers. The rotator cuff muscles, which consist of the supraspinatus, the infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis help hold the humerus into the shoulder socket. However, a dominant deltoid (round muscle on top of your arm) will pull the humerus forward and upward, overpowering the rotator cuff muscles. The result is that the humerus is pulled upward, which impinges the supraspinatus (on top of the shoulder) and causes discomfort.

Shortness or stiffness of the rotator cuff muscles behind your shoulder also interferes with the movement of the top of the arm. The primary job of these lateral rotators (infraspinatus and teres minor) is pulling down the humerus, but they can be overpowered by the posterior deltoid. This is common cause of shoulder pain in athletes who perform rowing motions often, or in desk bound workers, whose rotator cuff muscles have become stiff and weak.

If these lateral rotators are stiff and weak, this can result in an overstretched or weakened subscapularis (the muscle under your scapula). The subscapularis medially rotates the humerus and pulls the humeral head downward, with a role in pulling it back. However, an overdeveloped chest muscle (or a shortened, tight one as often seen in desk-bound workers) and a strong back (common in weight lifters) can overpower the subscapularis. This may cause excessive pressure on the front of the shoulder.

If you’ve been suffering from pain in your shoulders due to long hours at a desk, sleeping on your side, or as a result of your exercise routine, try these exercises to warm up before your regular workout:

These exercises may be performed without weight, or if no pain is present light weights or exercise bands may be used. Perform 2 - 3 sets of 10 - 15 repetitions.

  • Pendulum arm swings are performed by allowing your arms to hang down and swing.
  • Shoulder rolls with arms by your side
  • W arms (arms like goal posts) against the wall or supine and squeezing your shoulder blades together to open the chest and shoulder muscles.
  • Supine or standing W arms and reaching your arms up and down while opening your chest and shoulders.
  • External rotation with elbows in
  • Internal rotation with elbow in
  • Stretch the front and back of the shoulders at the end of the workout. Also stretch your lats, which are the big muscles of your back. To do so, grab a door jam and lean back until you feel the muscles on the outside of your back lengthen.
  • A more advanced move, which aids shoulder stability is a plank on your elbows or with straight arms. Make sure your nose is over your fingertips for proper alignment.