Shoulder Injury : Prevention Is The Best Form Of Treatment
The shoulder is an extremely mobile joint which makes it perfect for performing daily movements such as the over arm thrusts involved in throwing a spear, the back and forth motions necessary to starting a fire, or even the rotational rope swinging needed for the take down phase of capturing a woolly mammoth! Granted, times may have changed since the days of the Neolithic man, and mercifully for most our lifestyles no longer necessitate the daily hunt for food…however our anatomy has largely remained the same, and the musculature surrounding this highly mobile joint is as delicate as it was back in the day.
The integrity of our shoulder joints may not be directly related to the acquisition of food, but no doubt it plays a part in your job, which I’m sure you’ll agree plays a pretty big part in indirectly putting food on your plate. So when you’re doing what you love doing i.e. throwing weights around the gym, running a triathlon, throwing a cricket ball or whatever it is that you enjoy, remember that the strength and integrity of your shoulder joint starts deep within the shoulder, and not just the aesthetic balls of muscle you see on the outside!
My specialist subject is clinical and sport nutrition, and by no means am I professing in the field of physiotherapy, osteopathy or reflexology. However what I can say is this… I am a sport and fitness enthusiastic who (if he’s honest) lives for lifting weights, it’s my passion, therefore if at all possible I strive to spend as much time as possible lifting weights in the never ending pursuit of a Herculean physique! As a health professional with science and health professional degrees, I am astute enough to know that in order to reach such a target, I need to treat my body with the care and respect it deserves! I can’t be spending too much time in the abovementioned physio or osteopaths clinic, meaning I need to know how to protect myself. So in doing so if I can help you to protect yourself too, then it’s a win win for all!
The shoulder joint is formed where the ball of the humerous fits into the socket of the scapula (shoulder blade). Alongside these bones are some smaller (yet equally important) bones and bony projections that include the acromion (projecting off of the scapula), the clavicle (collar bone) which joins with the acromion in the acromioclavicular joint, and the coracoid process which protrudes from the scapula.
Anatomy of the shoulder (muscle and bone)
The above image exhibits the musculature that surrounds and joins the bone within the shoulder joint. The key players in maintaining joint rigidity are the rotator cuff muscles which include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and the teres minor.
Function : Rotator cuff
The name ‘rotator cuff’ pretty much sums it up; they are integral to rotating movements as opposed to pressing or pulling. A good example of a rotator cuff governed movement is combing your hair or performing a windscreen wiper movement when WIPING THE SWEAT OFF YOUR BENCH AFTER USE (hope the capitals emphasise this point adequately). The rotator cuffs also surround the shoulder joint meaning it is integral to joint stability and strength!
Deltoid / Rotator cuff relationship
Incidentally the Deltoid muscles surround the rotator cuff and are responsible for generating the majority of force exerted by the shoulder. So it’s the Rotator cuffs that support, and the Deltoids that generate force…ironic then that no amount of exercise on the ‘powerful muscles’ in the shoulder (the Delts) will ever significantly reduce your risk of injury, in fact, according to Kolber, Corrao and Hanney (2013) neglecting the rotator cuff is more likely to increase your risk of impingement and reduced joint instability!
Rotator cuff strengthening exercises
Preventative and rehabilitative exercises for the Rotator cuff muscles are relatively diverse including passive, dynamic and rhythmic movements. Kolber et al. (2013) go on to explain how Rotator cuff exercises (unlike ordinary strengthening exercises) should not be performed up to and beyond ‘the burn’ point. If you feel burning when exercising the Rotator cuffs then chances are you’re probably over doing it, a good rep range is usually 6-10 but on next to no weight; consider using exercise bands for a progressive loading on the muscle.
Internal Rotation (Internal Rotator cuff)
External Rotation (External Rotator cuff)
Infraspinatus External Rotation
Nutritional supplements can help to speed up the recovery process from injury, more importantly they can help reduce the onset of injury in the first place, and further still the correct supplements can reduce inflammation, support repair and aid mobility during the rehabilitation phase. Listed below are the supplement 'must have's' when it comes to injury prevention and rehabilitation:
Omega Oil Blend
An omega oil that has favourable ratios of omega-3 to omega- 6 fatty acids has anti-inflammatory properties meaning it reduces swelling in an around the joint as well as aiding joint lubrication.
Vitamins such as Vitamin C, D and K are known to support joints both directly and indirectly:
> Vitamin C - Used in the formation of cartilage and ligaments and tendons
> Vitamin D - Is needed for the absorption of Calcium which is integral to bone health
> Vitamin K - Supports Vitamin D with the absorption of Calcium
Other supplements to consider:
> Glucosamine - An amino sugar needed for the formation and maintenance of healthy cartilage, tendons and ligaments
> Chondroitin - The ideal partener for Glucosamine, Chondroitin is known as the ‘liquid magnet’ for its role in fluid absorption into the cartilage and ligaments
Try a combined Glucosamine and Chondroitin supplement such as Reflex Nutrition Glucosamine Chondroitin Complex
Kolber, M., Corrao, M., & Hanney, W, (2013). Characteristics of Anterior Shoulder Instability and Hyperlaxity in the Weight-Training Population. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 27: 5. p1333-1339. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318269f776
Martini, F & Nath, J, L, (2009). Fundamentals of Anatomy & Physiology. 8th Ed. San Francisco : Pearson Education Inc.