New Year’s Resolutions can be thwarted for many reasons, but don’t let pain be one of them! Common places for overuse injuries include the shoulder and the elbow. Could one of these be one of your New Year’s pains?
Shoulder pain towards the front or outside of the shoulder that cannot be attributed to any particular injury is often cause by muscular imbalance or decreased flexibility. Either of these can contribute to a decrease in the space between your humerus (the upper arm bone) and the outer aspect of your shoulder blade (the shelf at the top of your shoulder). When people refer to the rotator cuff, they are talking about four muscles whose job is to hold the ball in the socket. One of the muscles of your rotator cuff runs in the space between the ball of your humerus and the bottom of the shelf, and when this muscle gets pinched, it is called impingement. This is a common source of shoulder pain.
As previously mentioned, impingement is often caused by a muscular imbalance or by decreased flexibility. Many people who work out their shoulders (bench press, military press, etc) do not often stretch their shoulders. This causes a decrease in the flexibility of the muscles and the joint capsule that surround the joint. See a physical therapist to learn healthy and appropriate ways to stretch your shoulder.
A muscular imbalance means that muscles at one aspect of a joint are significantly stronger or tighter than the muscles on the other side of the joint. In the shoulder, many people tend to emphasize their chest workouts to the neglect of their upper back workouts. In reality, everything we do happens out in front of us, and the muscles on our front sides tend to be stronger and tighter than the muscles on our backsides. Everyone has seen an older person who is hunched forward but who has ever seen any person who is hunched backward? Along this line of thought, we should emphasize upper back workouts more than chest workouts to compensate for the fact that everyday life and gravity are pulling us back in the direction of being four-legged! By increasing the strength in our upper backs, we are able to balance out the natural strength in our chests and more appropriately center the ball of the shoulder joint in the socket so nothing is being unnecessarily pinched.
One of the most common overuse injuries in the elbow is tendinitis. This can occur at the thumb side of the elbow (tennis elbow) or at the pinky side of the elbow (golfer’s elbow) and is more common with using a lot of free weights or increasing to heavier weights too soon. To treat your own tendinitis, hold your affected arm straight out in front of you at shoulder height. If your pain is thumb-side, turn your hand palm down (palm up if your pain is pinky-side). Using your unaffected side, take hold of your fingers and hand on the painful arm and bending at your wrist, pull your fingers back toward your elbow. A stretch should be felt in your forearm. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times. If this does not significantly improve your elbow pain, seek further attention from your physical therapist.
If you experience any injury, SSI is always here to help you begin your road to recovery.