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I Love the Internet

dipiction of pain in the shoulderSo I was working with a client the other day, and she was complaining about her shoulder hurting. I could empathize, since I had done some military pressing earlier in the week and come to the realization my shoulder always hurts after doing those. I told her I would do some research and see if I could come up with anything. We had both already been trying foam rolling and stretching. Of course, I asked her if she had seen her doctor, and like most people, myself included,  the answer was “no, it’s not that bad”.

I went to YouTube- like where else would you do homework like that? I typed in “exercises for shoulder pain” and got an avalanche of results. I already have a good idea how to filter them. If I see a girl sticking her butt out at that camera, I know it’s not a good video. Likewise, if it’s a guy in his basement. Videos that look like they were shot in commercial facilities, or by people with lots of initials after their last names are always a better bet. So anyway, I start sampling them. Some starting with the explanations of shoulder pain, some just started with the exercises.

I need to throw some background in here before going on. I got my certification through ACE, which strongly emphasizes stability and mobility, meaning some joints are meant to do most of the moving, while others are meant to hold the more mobile parts in place. They talked quite a bit about scapular stability, but at the time, I didn’t quite get the importance of it, and how it tied into everything else. In my own defense, if they had had videos showing what they were talking about, I would have had a greater understanding.

anatomy picture showing the acromion process, the humerus and the bursa

picture where the humerus would hit if the acromion process didn’t move out of the way

Back to YouTube, one of the physical therapists had a skeleton and demonstrated what your scapula does to prevent shoulder pain,  the acromion process is part of the scapula, it needs to be in the right position, keeping it out of the way. It goes over your humerus, making part of the socket.  In other words, if your scapula is not in the right place, it pinches your rotator cuff tendons like a finger in a door hinge when you push overhead. I started sampling some of the exercises. I found several that were nearly magic. I did shoulder protraction and retraction first, and found out that in  the painful shoulder my shoulder blade did not initially move normally. After doing the exercise for a few minutes, it freed up, and guess what? The pain dropped by 50%. I followed up with ball rolls on the wall, positioning the ball first in front of me, then out to one side, then across my body. Unlike this video, I used a medicine ball, our gym does not have a lot of wall space, so I had to condense. I also did some stretching, with putting my hand behind my back, making my arm look like a chicken wing, and pulling the elbow forward. Some of the stretches in that video I would use with caution. He does some with a band to assist that I don’t think people should do unsupervised.  Dr. Even Osar disagreed with some of the other video’s and with what I was taught through ACE, but I found after trying some of his exercises that I got to the same place with the others that he got to with his. I would recommend his video since he goes into more detail about the normal working of the scapula.

Now I want to put the disclaimer in. While YouTube is full of interesting stuff, and many educated and amazing people are putting tons of quality videos out there, there is also a lot of really bad stuff too. I can sift through them since I have enough of an educated background to know what I’m watching. I would not recommend just blindly sampling what’s out there. Also, doctors and physical therapists are wonderful. I realize that access to health care is getting worse all the time, but if you can get physical therapy for a painful condition, do it. Last, if you do find an exercise that helps a painful condition, you have to do it regularly, at least for awhile, until both your mind and body become accustomed to the new pattern, otherwise you are wasting your time.


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