As a physio in Oxygen Fitness and Pilates gym in St Leonards on the Lower North Shore, I see a few shoulder and elbow injuries, so I thought I would write a few tips how to avoid them.
First a bit about the anatomy; the shoulder is a very mobile joint, it comprises of the arm bone articulating with the shoulder blade, which in itself is mobile and in turn is attached to the ribs and spine by muscles. The only bony connection of the shoulder with the body is the collar bone! The elbow is also quite mobile and depends on the shoulder position to function properly. It is put at a biomechanical disadvantage if your shoulder is forward or in the wrong position when doing weights. This can predispose you to muscle strain.
When doing weights the shoulder blade must be sitting properly on your chest wall, to avoid pinching tendons (the rotator cuff), or bursa (fluid cushion between bone and tendon) (see image) as the arm is lifted up. The shoulder blade should be resting on your chest wall, flat and not up around your ears. If the part of the scapula that the arm bone rolls on is angled incorrectly ie with slumped shoulders tendons can be pinched. If the upper body is exercised with the shoulders in this position you are predisposing yourself to injury. I see lots of slumped shoulders from sitting for long hours at a computer and/or poor posture.
So before exercising:
– Stretch the pectoral muscles (front chest)
– Stretch the back of the shoulder including lat dorsi
– Stretch the neck side to side slowly
– Keep your shoulders back when exercising by ‘opening ‘ the front of the chest, not jamming your shoulders back
– Start with light weights to ensure you have the right ‘form’ and gradually build up.
– Always ask gym instructor on the floor if you are unsure about a particular exercise
– All stretches should be held for 30 seconds and repeated 3 times.
There are many other causes of shoulder pain not mentioned here. If you are unsure of your diagnosis you should see your physio or GP. Generally physios are the practitioner to see with musculoskeletal injuries.