How to Treat and Prevent Shoulder Pain

About 2 weeks ago, I saw a teammate of mine doing triceps kick backs and dumbbell rows with a 15 lb dumbbell. I knew this teammate was suffering from a shoulder injury so I said to him “WHAT THE F**K ARE YOU DOING??” He said that is what the trainers had told him to do to get his shoulder better.  I cannot believe that “certified athletic trainers” would think that this type of rehab would help a college baseball athlete. Clearly these trainers have NEVER lifted a weight in their life or else they would know that doing kickbacks and rows with 15 lbs will do nothing for your shoulder pain. This encounter inspired me to write a post on how to take care of shoulder injuries in baseball.

Why do baseball players suffer from shoulder pain?

Most shoulder injuries are caused from overuse. The throwing motion is very unnatural and puts a crazy amount of stress on your shoulder. The muscular imbalances caused from baseball also will lead to shoulder injuries. Due to the unnatural nature of the throwing motion, shoulder injuries in baseball players may be inevitable but there are ways to treat and prevent the onset of these injuries.

This is not natural

Why external/internal rotation is not enough?

Doing external and internal with tubing or a band is not enough to prevent shoulder injuries. While the rotator cuff may be the problem, the cause of rotator cuff pain is the surrounding musculature. Therefore in order to treat shoulder pain you need to address the areas around the rotator cuff, not necessary the rotator cuff itself. The scapula, rhomboids, lower traps are critical to shoulder health.   Below, I will share with you how to address the surrounding musculature. I guarantee that if you start to address these issues, your shoulder pain will subside.  

Doing this alone will NOT get rid of shoulder pain

1) Improve the issue quality around the shoulder. This can be done with a foam roller, lacrosse ball or even a baseball.  Soft tissue work will help break up scar tissue and adhesions in the muscle tissue. The benefits of this are improved tissue quality and thus improved muscle function. You will also notice improvements in mobility and ROM as well.  Experience has shown me that most injuries can be healed or at least improved with improved tissue quality. Perform soft tissue work before training, in between sets and numerous times throughout the day.

2) Improve the mobility of the thoracic spine. A ton of shoulder injuries could be prevented through improvements in thoracic spine mobility. The best time to address the thoracic spine is in the warm up. Bill Hartman and Mike Robertson’s Inside Out is the best resource out there to improve thoracic spine mobility. Tight thoracic spines are common in baseball players because they are constantly internally rotated from throwing. Ever wonder why some athletes can’t lock weights out? Bingo! out.

3) Address the often ignored upper back. 95% of all athletes I train have the same weaknesses. One of these weaknesses is the upper back. Weakness in the upper back is caused from an emphasis on pushing and pressing movements like the bench press, dumbbell presses and other exercises of this nature. In addition to addressing the mobility of the upper back (t-spine) baseball players also need strengthen the external rotators and other muscles of the upper back. I’ve found the best way to do this is to end each workout with a pulling exercise that addresses this weakness. Exercises like face pulls, dumbbell “power cleans”, band pull-aparts will address this weakness.

Stay tuned for parts II,III,IV when I will get into detail about how to improve tissue quality, mobility of the thoracic spine and how to strengthen the upper back. Like what you see? Press the like button below :) Drop some comments. Do you suffer from shoulder pain? Comment on what kind of pain you are suffering from and I will help you get your shoulder feeling good again!

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