Causes & prevention of shoulder injuries

A range of factors influence shoulder injuries, but there are some things you can do to prevent any future injuries.

There are a wide range of shoulder conditions which can cause pain. You canĀ read about shoulder conditions here. But what if pain actually originates from the neck or spine? Find out more below and how you can prevent shoulder pain related to weight and resistance training.

Can spinal problems be the cause of shoulder pain?

Several problems which affect the neck (cervical spine) and less commonly the middle back (thoracic spine) may give rise to shoulder pain. Commonly, this pain is easily identified as coming from a primary spinal complaint as there will be severe neck or middle back pain but in some cases this will not occur.

Cervical spine problems which refer shoulder pain include an intervertebral disc prolapse or inflamed facet joint. When these issues cause shoulder pain there is often a pain through the large upper trapezius muscle which lies in the space between the neck and shoulder itself. Pain arising from the middle spine may also give rise to similar symptoms and there may be associated pain in to the front of the chest.

More commonly, when there is a referral of pain to the shoulder from the cervical spine it is due to an inflamed or compressed nerve root. A nerve root pain may refer pain to the shoulder but often all the way down the arm to the hand and may also be associated with pins and needles or tingling in the arm or hand.

If a spinal cause for shoulder pain is suspected, this can often be confirmed by a qualified healthcare professional after a clinical examination. Treatment can then be targeted at the underlying cause.

How can I prevent shoulder pain related to weight/resistance training?

Shoulder pain is an extremely common problem for individuals who perform resistance training as part of their fitness routine. The causes are numerous but with some sensible modifications to training plans the majority of shoulder pain can be managed well.

Firstly, any individual engaged in regular resistance training will benefit from a regular stretching program for the middle back, pectoral and latissimus dorsi muscles. Stiffness to any of these structures limit the range of motion which the scapulae can move in which places more work on the shoulder socket and rotator cuff tendons.

Even with a regular stretching program, many individuals will still struggle with stiffness to these structures and as a result be unable to elevate their arm or rotate their shoulder to an ideal range of motion. As such, these individuals should recline the bench angle backwards when performing overhead shoulder press exercises and may also benefit from reducing the amount of overhead and pull up exercise variations. Exercises lying flat on a bench also fixes the scapular position and as such places increased demand on the shoulder joint and rotator cuff tendons. These exercises can be modified by using dumbbells instead of barbells and by reducing the range of motion of the exercises.

For maximal training benefit and reducing injury risk individuals should change their gym plan every six to eight weeks and will also benefit from rest weeks between programs. Adding variability to the exercises themselves as well as the load, number of sets and repetitions are all good ways of reducing shoulder injury risk.

Shoulder pain diagnosis

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