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Triceps Extension Exercise Causing Shoulder Pain


As you may already know, I (Julie) am the Repetitive Strain Expert on All Experts.  Through the years I’ve had several hundred messages from people in pain and can’t figure out what is causing the problem.

Today I had a message from a man who was doing a triceps extension exercise and now has pain in his shoulder whenever he moves it.  He’s upset because he hasn’t been able to work out for over two weeks, and the cause is a bit complicated.  I decided to share it with you so you’d understand how a triceps extension exercise can cause spasms in muscles that surround the shoulder and what to do if it should happen to you.

Here is his message to me:

"One day I was performing a two-arm triceps extension exercise. Suddenly I felt little pain in the lower portion of my posterior shoulder. I think the dumbbell weight was a little high, but I ignored it and finished my workout. The next day pain started while I was doing any shoulder movement. So I stopped my workout routine for 1 month. Now after one month , when I again started my workout plan, pain comes back again. The pain is not for whole day, sometimes it comes and goes. I feel tightness in my back portion of shoulder for the whole day. I am depressed because I’m not following my workout routine.. 🙁"

I’ve worked with athletes for 26 years, and I clearly understand why an athlete gets depressed when s/he is unable to exercise.  However, I compliment this athlete for stopping and resting because too often an athlete will “work through the pain,” which can easily make it worse.

The graphic to the left shows the triceps, infraspinatus, and teres minor/major muscles, and a portion of the trapezius muscle.  Each of these muscles, along with a muscle called serratus anterior, contract in order to raise your arm so you can do a triceps extension exercise.

The referred pain area for the serratus anterior is exactly where the athlete was describing his pain, although it’s definitely not where most people would think to treat the pain.

You need to find the “hot spot” (trigger point) under your arm, along your rib cage, as shown in this chart.

While the muscles mentioned above are not involved in the actual exercise, they are being held in the contracted position while you are doing the exercise.  If the muscle stays at the contracted length due to muscle memory, and you then move your arm, the tight muscle pulls on the joint.

In the case of the triceps extension exercise, when you lower your arm to the normal resting position, you are moving your shoulder blade, and therefore changing the length of the muscles that insert into the shoulder blade.  This can cause a painful strain on any muscle that needs to lengthen in order to bring your arm down and to your side.

Exercise is excellent for the tone of your muscles. Even better is ending your exercise program by self-treating the muscles to force out the build-up of toxins, and then safely stretching the muscles back to their normal length.

The photo on the left is the treatment for the infraspinatus, and will help eliminate the spasms in this tight shoulder muscle. You can then put the ball directly on the serratus anterior and lean into the wall. There are several other important treatments that are all taught in The Foundation DVD that is part of Focused Flexibility Training.  Stay on the ball (included in the Focused Flexibility Training Kit) for 30 seconds, and then slowly move so you can find other trigger points. Treat each painful spasm the same way.

It’s important to first release the spasms in your muscles, and then safely stretch after you have worked out.  You’ll get stronger when your muscles are able to contract and release without spasms shortening the fibers. Focused Flexibility Training has been specifically designed to help you help yourself to a stronger and healthier body!

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