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Shoulder injuries. It’s a problem that plagues most men I know over 30. Session after session and bootcamp after bootcamp, the shoulder pain complaints started adding up. I said to myself, “Wow, I need to start looking into this. Thank God my shoulders are okay.”
Then it happened.
I was doing a shoulder exercise and suddenly felt a pull. It led to a dull ache that plagued me for months. So, I joined the club and started my research.
For many of us, the source of pain is a mystery. Most don’t know exactly what the problem is, what started it or how to treat it. We become secretly depressed, frustrated and scared.
Some forge on, labeling it as a nuisance and keep doing the same workouts, in pain. They perpetuate the problem and set themselves up for surgery. Others will bench themselves and avoid all exercises that could aggravate it.
I’ve found, the real solution lies somewhere between denial and fear. It’s a gray area, where you not only treat the pain, but change your habits and keep training.
The most common causes of shoulder injuries
The shoulder while resilient, is used more then almost any area in the body. It’s non-stop nature makes it venerable when we overload it.
Neuromuscular therapist Maurizio Cavaletti is on the front lines of shoulder injuries treatment. He says they’re often caused by a combination of incorrect exercises, bad form and surprisingly how you sleep, “When you sleep on your stomach, you are putting your shoulder in a constant state of impingement.” He recommends sleeping on your side or on your back.
Situations like these often add up to what many leading health experts regard as the most common diagnosis for shoulder pain: tendonitis. Tendonitis is a condition where the tendon becomes inflamed, causing everything from aching, pinching, clicking and stiffness.
Cavaletti explains the majority of his clients with shoulder injuries don’t suffer with actual structural problems but inflammation. Many, he says can avoid surgery.
“It should always be the last call. The focus should be on proper form and mobility,” Cavaletti says.
Rehabilitating shoulder injuries
He instructs people with shoulder pain in both his private practice and in “Fix” classes at The Phoenix Effect, a Los Angeles-based gym that uses physical therapy techniques to help people increase their shoulders’ range of motion.
While modified exercises can lead to some serious breakthroughs, he says significant tears to the rotator cuff and labrum can require surgery. It’s always best to get an x-ray or MRI to rule those out.
Otherwise, how do we fix should injuries? The first step is eliminating the causes.
According to the Mayo Clinic, rotator cuff injuries are most common in sports related activities that involve overhead pressing. As a fitness expert I un-apologetically believe heavy overhead presses ultimately leads to the same end result: injury. I’m not saying don’t do it. (I still do.) However, if you are gonna go heavy, you better know your shit. Otherwise, someday, I promise, you’ll pay the price.
Other exercises to avoid (or go light with) if you have shoulder issues are: barbell upright row and pulling or pressing anything behind the neck. These movements can put the shoulder in a compromising position.
In today’s world, we’re fortunate there are now many forms of fitness. So there are also many opinions. After you have eliminated the risk factors, the second step including solid mobility and choosing the right exercises to help add size, definition and restore mobility. But it’s best to talk to a trainer or physical therapist to see which ones will work best for you.
It’s possible to develop great shoulders and heal them at the same time. For me it took staying in touch with my body, patience and an open mind.