How to avoid shoulder pain

Vasek MalecekCrossfit Committed, crossfit tips, healthLeave a Comment

One of the common issues that our clients have is pain in the shoulder joint that results in limitations in their training. Shoulders are probably used more than any other joint in our body during our trainings. The instability of this joint and the range of motion of the joint can often cause issues.

We use the shoulder joint in following movements:

  • All S2O movements (press, push press, jerk, thruster)
  • Gymnastics on the bar (pull ups, mainly the kipping variation, toes to bar, muscle ups)
  • Push ups, HSPU, hand stand, dips, burpees
  • Snatch and OHS

As you can see from this list, we do at least one exercises that engages shoulder joint in almost every single class.

I would like to cover the most often diagnosis of shoulder joint pain so that you will know what your physiotherapist means when he or she tells you all the medical terms. I will also add couple tips on how to avoid shoulder pain.

Bursitis – So called bursae are small sacs filled with fluid. They are located close to joints. Their role is to decrease friction between bones, ligaments and muscle origins. Bursitis happens when bursae gets inflamed. Movement of the joint or pressure on bursae then becomes painful.

Tendonitis – inflammation of tendons can be very painful. It happens to people who are overly using certain tendon for a long time and are not resting it enough (some of you may recognize yourself in this:)). The inflammation is caused by micro traumas caused by overuse of tendons. Many times athletes do not recognize the issue when it starts, but there is a progressive increase of pain. The pain is getting worse and the limitation of the range of motion of the joint increases as well.

Rotator cuff injuries  – rotator cuff consists of a group of muscles and their tendons that origin on scapula and attach to the top of humerus (m. subscapulairs, m. supraspinatu, infrasponatus and m. teres minor). Signs of rotator cuff injuries include pain in shoulder joint and inability to extend the arm overhead. It is also common to suffer from pain at night, especially if you sleep on the shoulder that is injured.

How to avoid shoulder issues?

  1. Warm up your shoulders properly. You can use dynamic stretching that Tomáš wrote about in his article.
  2. Do a few sets of given exercises with an empty barbell and with lighter weight than you are going to use in the WOD. If there is a lower body exercise in strength and a shoulder exercise in WOD, it is not great to load the bar with Rx weight right away and think that you “cold” shoulders will be ok.
  3. Exercising shoulders does not only mean to concentrate on your press max. Strengthen all the muscles that keep the shoulder joint together.

Following exercises are great for keeping the shoulder joint healthy. You can add them as a part of your warm up or as a “cash out” at the end of your training:

Crossover symmetry:   Complex of exercises with resistance bands that strengthens muscles engaged across whole range of motion of the shoulder joint.

Turkish get up: Great exercise for your midline that also engages the rotator cuff when the kettle bell is stabilized in the overhead position. Do this exercises slowly and control every position.

Windmill: Correct execution of this exercise requires big range of motion and stability and mobility in the shoulder joint. Similarly to TGU, shoulder muscles have to constantly stabilize the arm during this movement.

Kettle bell halo: Very easy yet effective exercise focusing on mobility of the shoulder joint.

I hope that adding these exercises to your training a few times per week can help you avoid shoulder pain and injuries. If you have issues with your shoulders, try to give them some rest. Talk to your physiotherapist and ask your coach about how you should adjust your training. Don’t exercise through pain, even if the pain decreases after warming up. It is not worth it!

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