Dr. Shannon Russell, DPT, CSCS, USAW-1
Shoulder pain is a commonality amongst many; from our high level athletes, to our weekend warriors, and everyone in between. Despite being such a common complaint, there are a variety of reasons and causes why someone might be experiencing shoulder pain. Some of the most common causes can include: overuse conditions, which may be common in someone like a baseball pitcher; degenerative conditions, or gradual wear and tear over time; or an acute injury to the shoulder, like falling on an outstretched arm. Regardless of the cause, oftentimes the best way to get out of pain and let this area begin to heal is by changing the position and posture that your body is in. By changing our body’s posture, this can open up more space in the shoulder area and allow for healing to occur. If you are currently experiencing shoulder pain, I always first recommend getting evaluated by a licensed professional in order to get a customized plan to best fit your specific needs. However, in the meantime, here are my top 5 exercises for instant relief from shoulder pain. These are by no means a long-term solution, but will get you feeling good so you can get through your day and your workouts without pain holding you back!
1. Banded Shoulder Distraction 3 sets x 30 sec hold
Grab hold of the band, straighten out your arm and bend forward slightly at the hips. Try to relax into this and let the band pull your shoulder. This will provide a nice traction force, which will open up room in the shoulder joint and take pressure off of any impinged or injured tissues. You should also get a really nice lat stretch with this, which is something all of us avid gym-goers could always use!
2. Banded Bully Stretch 3 sets x 30 sec hold
Hang a 1-1.5 inch band from a squat rack, pull up bar, or something else high up and sturdy. Put the band around the top part of your humerus (upper arm bone), as close as you can to where your arm meets your shoulder. Face away from the band, and place your hand behind your back as though you were being handcuffed. Step forward until you feel a good amount of tension on the band. You should feel a nice stretch deep inside the shoulder. This is another move that is really great to open up more space in your shoulder joint and make you feel better! Try this one out before or after an upper body lift.
3. Seated Back Expansion 5 sets x 5 breath cycles
Set yourself up in a chair at a table about knee height. From here, put your elbows on the table straight in front of you. Make sure elbows are directly in front of your shoulders and palms should be facing you. Lean slightly forward, and reach your chest away from the table. Try to keep your abs tight, and take 5 deep breaths while holding this position. You should feel a nice stretch right behind your shoulder blades and throughout your upper back!
Oftentimes cranky shoulders are a result of a stiff thoracic spine, or upper back. The following two exercises are great ones to open up your upper back and put your shoulders in a better position to move freely.
4. ½ Kneeling T-Spine Rotation 3 sets x 8 reps each direction
Find a wall and a foam roller. Get as close to the wall as you can in a half kneeling position. Put the roller between the wall and your outside knee, and keep your knee pressed against the wall the whole time. Hold both arms out in front of you at a 90 degree angle, with the inside arm against the wall. Rotate torso and outside arm, and try to touch the wall behind you. Go as far as you can while keeping your knee against the foam roller. Make sure to hit both sides.
5. T-Spine Bench Mobility 3 sets x 10 reps, 3 sec hold
Grab a PVC pipe or stick and a weight bench. Sit on your knees in front of a weight bench. Hold the PVC in both hands, palms up, and place your elbows on the bench in front of you. Slowly sit your butt back, drop your head, and bend at the elbows to feel a good stretch through your upper back.