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Shoulder Pain Treatment


I am the moderator for a repetitive strain injury Q&A website.  This athlete’s question was so perfect for so many readers of Flexible Athlete blog that I had to share it with you here.

And I’m going to give you the shoulder pain treatment I recommended!

The Issue:  Shoulder Pain from Rowing


Here is the athlete’s message:

"The day following an intense 500 meter rowing sprint race, I had difficulty raising both arms over my head to serve a tennis ball…though I still played through it.


Next came a week of daily tennis during which I felt a more intense ache in serving attempts, but no discomfort whatsoever hitting groundstrokes. (This is an important clue to his pain!  More on this as you read on.)

One final backhand follow-through and I was hurting too much for any over-the-counter pain pills to work.  It’s been 2 weeks and a few physical therapy sessions since then and all I have to show for it is the pain. 

It is difficult to pinpoint, but it feels like either the intercostal muscles or my serratus anterior.  I’m also now feeling pain wrapping around the area just under the right shoulder blade.

I’m uncertain both about the diagnosis and whatever therapy can hasten my return the sports I love."

The Explanation:  Cause of Shoulder Pain from Rowing


Shoulder pain is a common injury for rowers because of the movement and also because of the addition of the resistance given by the water. If you love using water sports to exercise your body, including swimming, this message is important to prevent shoulder pain.

The three key muscles that cause shoulder pain are the infraspinatus (on the shoulder blade), latissimus dorsi (on the bottom of the shoulder blade) and to a lesser degree, the pectoralis minor (the top of the chest, just in front of the shoulder).

When this athlete was rowing he was powerfully pulling the oar through the water, a movement that repeatedly involved his infraspinatus muscle and latissimus dorsi.  Click on the links to take a look at the action of the muscle for a clearer understanding as to how rowing can cause these two muscles to become strained.


The Important Clue to the Shoulder Pain Issue:


When you have your arms up, such as when you are serving in tennis as this athlete was, the latissimus dorsi muscle brings the arm back down.


However, this athlete had shortened this muscle from having so many trigger points (muscle knots) by overusing it which prevented him from easily raising his arm up to serve.

The shortened latissimus dorsi pulled on the attachment close to his shoulder which caused his pain.  If he had continued playing much longer, especially with the speed and strength needed to play tennis, he could have caused muscle fibers to tear.

Shoulder Pain Treatment:

To treat your latissimus dorsi, place the Trigger Point Treatment Ball in front of your shoulder blade, as shown in the picture.

This is also the location for treating your infraspinatus so you can actually do both treatments at the same time, it’s just a matter of a slight angle change with your body pressure.

Lean into a wall applying pressure to the muscle.  Hold for 30-60 seconds on any tender spots.  These tender spots are trigger points and are what’s causing your pain.  You will feel the tenderness dissipate as you place pressure.

If you place the ball in front of the border of the shoulder blade you are on your latissimus dorsi.

If you place the ball on the flat surface of the shoulder blade you are on your infraspinatus.

Both muscles need to be treated to eliminate shoulder pain so just keep searching for those “tender spots” and release each one you find.

Once you feel the muscle release you can then safely stretch.

Bringing your arm forward and across your body to stretch your infraspinatus then raise your arm overhead stretch your arm toward the center of your body to stretch the latissimus dorsi.

I suggest you do the Upper Body Session in the Focused Flexibility Training system.

Both treatments and stretches are easy to do, but it could take you a bit of time if your muscle is extremely shortened from trigger points.  However the results are well worth your time and energy!

Please feel free to comment on this subject via my inquiry form - click here

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