Strength vs. Flexibility: How to Solve Shoulder Pain in Overhead Athletes, Swimmers, Surfers & For People that Just Put Serious Mileage on Their Shoulders.
We tend to think that we need to just keep stretching and pushing for movement when we are stiff, tight or hurt. People tend to focus on working on their “flexibility or mobility” to unstick their stiff joints or tight muscles. They often experience snap, crackles, and pops in their joints as they move. This can be alarming and make you wonder if this is the start of a serious injury.
Counter to what you may think……
The body being stiff or tight maybe its effort to try to stabilize or protect a joint from excessive movement, which can cause damage and wear to muscle, ligaments, or the joint. Stretching can actually make it worse, because it just keeps increasing the mobility of the joints and the muscles compensate by just tightening down the joint even more.
This requires further assessment to truly identify what area of your body really needs stability or mobility exercises to balance this tug-o-war on your joints. Frequently, the area that needs attention and correction is not even the area that hurts.
I commonly observe this in certain body types or persons who engage in repetitive, high level activities or sports.
My surfers, swimmers, water polo players, paddle boarders, baseball pitchers all engage in high volume, intense, frequent and long periods of training and competing and involving repetitive powerful shoulder movments. The shoulder joint has the ability to move through all planes of movement and relies heavily on musculature support to stabilize the joint. The shared muscle groups with the neck contribute to the incidence of shoulder and neck pain occurring together. Due to the repetitive throwing, stroke or paddling motions certain muscles over or under develop. Typically, the stronger dominate muscle observed are; large neck, pec, lat muscles (which mostly on the front of the body and all round the body forward), and while the weaker rotator cuff and back stabilizing muscle are the deeper smaller muscled. The later muscle groups I consider the core and foundation of a healthy painfree shoulder.
Instead of focusing on traditional stretching or range of motion exercise, we focus on strengthening the core, trunk, back and rotator cuff muscles. Additionally, by getting manual soft tissue work and specific exercises from a specialist Physical Therapist to perform daily and before and after workouts or competition we are able to keep these overhead athletes and hypermobile individuals pain free and performing at elite levels.
This same situation is observed in other sports where intense, repetitive movements put high demands on an unstable joint- think running, cutting, jumping sports to name a few……..
What happens IF you do not give the joint the balance stability and mobility it needs?
Unfortunately, over time these injuries lead to serious damage on the joint and warrant giving up what you love to do and at the level you like to do it or worse case scenario………surgery(rotator cuff, biceps tendon, labrum……..).
How do you know if you are at risk for a serious injury if you do not achieve the mobility or stability your body needs? This is something one of our Specialist Physical therapist can help you with.
We are always available for FREE phone consultations. Click the link below to schedule a time for us to call you or just give us a call at (805) 941-0125. We aso provide 20 minute Diagnostic Discovery Visits where we meet with you to get a more accurate sense of your pain, risk factors and how we can help you acheive all your goals. We would be happy to talk to you about your specific questions, concerns, or problems anytime.
At Perseverance Movement Specialists & Pilates we help people aged 40+ stay fit, active and overcome mobility loss to be able to live the life they love without fear, limitation and depending on painkillers or procedures.
Yvonne A. Castillo, MSPT, DPT, CPT