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Chronic Shoulder Pain - The Solution!

This is not medical advice. If you’ve recently had an accident, go see a doctor.


Hi, my name is Tom Pfeiffer, I’m a certified fitness and nutrition coach and in this post I’m sharing the solution to most chronic shoulder pain.


The Problem

People are suffering! In the United States alone there are over 500,000 shoulder surgeries per year, and many of these are no more successful than exercise itself!


The Cause

The most common form of joint pain is caused by overstretching ligaments due to poor posture and muscle imbalance.



Modern man spends too much time sitting down, which causes excessive rounding of the thoracic spine, and internal rotation and elevation of the shoulders. Then we go to the gym and exercise to look good instead of improving our health.


Poor posture and muscle imbalances can cause your humerus to be moved out of position, causing instability or reduced space in the shoulder joint, and over time, can lead to impingement and pain.



The Solution


Posture


The solution to most habitual shoulder pain is improving posture. Once you begin sitting and standing with good posture, you might be amazed at how your chronic body pain disappears.


Good Standing Posture

  1. Stand tall with feet hip width apart, twist your feet into the ground and squeeze your glutes to level your hips

  2. Brace your core as if you were peeing, laughing, or about to get punched in the stomach

  3. Chest up towards the ceiling

  4. Externally rotate and anti-shrug your shoulders

  5. Lastly, tuck your chin in as if something smells bad in front of you

Good Sitting Posture

  1. Keep your hips neutral and maintain the normal low back curve

  2. Align and stack your ears, shoulders, and hips

  3. Sit evenly and avoid leaning to one side

  4. Place computer as close to eye level as possible

  5. Take regular breaks or change positions often


Mobility


We need mobility to get the shoulder back into its natural posture and then we need to strengthen the muscles that maintain this good posture.


Hanging is the ultimate upper body mobility exercise that stretches habitually tight muscles and ligaments and restores function to your shoulder. With hanging alone, you can fix your pain and avoid unnecessary shoulder surgery!


Here’s orthopedic surgeon John Kirsch explaining why this works:


“Hanging will bend the acromion and stretch the coracoacromial ligament increasing the space in which the rotator cuff tendons can move without obstruction. This is the mechanism by which the shoulder is healed.” - John M. Kirsch, MD (Page 11)


In 2012 Dr. Kirsch tested this hypothesis and there was a 98% success rate of the participants returning to comfortable active daily living.


“Everyone should do these exercises; because not only do the exercises relieve most shoulder pain problems, they prevent them from occurring.” - John M Kirsch, MD (Page 22)


  1. *Hanging is not recommended if you have unstable or dislocating shoulders, in precarious physical health, or with severe osteoporosis.

  2. Once you can raise your arm to shoulder height with strength, you can begin hanging.

  3. Begin with your feet on the ground and hold for as long as you can.

  4. Once you can pick up your feet and hang for 30 seconds, perform Scapular pulls to strengthen the muscles around your shoulder blades.


Hanging is the only exercise you need to improve your upper body mobility and get more space in your shoulder joint, however, here are 4 additional mobility exercises to try:

  • Lay of the ground with arms overhead is such a simple way to stretch your chest

  • Foam Rolling the Thoracic Spine will help to reform your spine [wolff’s law] and improve your posture and thoracic extension.

  • The Lat Prayer Stretch will loosen up your lats and your upper back.

  • The Table Top Stretch will loosen up your biceps, forearms, and shoulders.


Strengthening


Now that we have more space in the shoulder joint, we need to strengthen this new range of motion to make our mobility gains permanent.


The two movement patterns we must strengthen to support our shoulders are thoracic extension and external rotation. These movements will provide stability and balance to the shoulder.


Here are 5 exercises to strengthen your shoulder joint:

  1. Prone Raises 10 reps (infraspinatus, teres minor, rhomboids, mid traps, lower traps)

  2. T-Raises

  3. External rotations

  4. 90 degree raises

  5. Reverse snow angels https://youtu.be/_pjMki88Qd8)

  6. Trap 3 Raise (lower traps)

  7. Chest Supported Row (traps, rhomboids)

  8. Banded External Rotation (infraspinatus, teres minor, serratus anterior) https://youtu.be/0A51P5B36f8

  9. Cable Facepull (infraspinatus, teres minor, rear deltoid)


Here is the Ultimate Healthy Shoulder Exercise Routine:


Hang from a bar with palms facing forward for 2 minutes daily

  1. 3 times per week

  2. Prone Raises 2 rounds of 10 reps

  3. Chest supported row 3 sets 10 reps

  4. Cable face pulls 3 sets 20 reps


What’s best for your individual situation might be different. Use your own discretion and try all the exercises to learn what works best for you. If you’d like a customized plan for you, schedule a consultation with me today.


Stubborn Pain


Shoulder Pain not going away

Once you’ve started training the right way, inflammation can cause pain to persist, so be patient and continue your exercises.


To permanently fix your shoulders, you must address the cause. Find ways to maintain good posture throughout the day and take frequent breaks from computer work.


When performing upper body exercises, focus on thoracic extension and external rotation. Record yourself and review your lifting technique, or seek a qualified trainer.


The Problem with Doctors


When I was 21 years old a doctor diagnosed me with degenerative disc disease. He said I’d never run, jump, or lift weights for the rest of my life. I could have accepted his diagnosis, but it turns out he was wrong.


When we accept a diagnosis, we accept powerlessness. The more you take ownership for your injury, the more powerful you become. At the end of the day, you’re the only person who can fix your shoulder pain. The Biology of Belief by Dr. Bruce Lipton is a great book if you’d like to read more about this.


Hope this helps! - Tom