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If simple arm movements hurt, simply start stretching

I once knew a girl in her early 20s who blew her rotator cuff shampooing her hair. How could that happen? She wasn’t lifting, or performing out-of-the-ordinary tasks.

Some shoulder pre-hab might have prevented her injury.

If you are unaware of how to pre-hab yourself against injury, it may seem that our joints are part of a lottery where any one of them could catastrophically self-destruct at any random moment.

Joint injuries can be miserable to heal. I hope with today’s column you will have a better idea of how to keep your shoulder joints healthy and mobile. Pre-hab is a concept that there are preventive measures you can take to aid in the longevity of your joint health.

Before we can get into shoulder pre-hab, let’s talk about some unavoidable injuries. Catastrophic injuries are those that happen because of an outside trauma such as a car accident, ski mishap or falling from a ladder. Other joint issues are related to health disorders and degenerative diseases.

Most other shoulder issues can be prevented because they are related to the length-tension relationship of the different muscles surrounding the rotator cuff. If one or more of the shoulder muscles become tight, it alters the way the shoulder moves. Instead of moving efficiently, other muscles make up the slack for the one or more muscles that are indisposed.

Since the shoulder is made up of smaller muscles in comparison to the hip, the muscles can strain more easily if you try to manipulate heavy loads or perform stressful repetitive movements. Muscles generally don’t lock up all of a sudden; it is a slow and gradual process.

There are ways of discovering if your shoulders are beginning to tighten.

One of my favorite tools is a few simple range-of-motion tests. For these tests, move through the test range of motion until you just start to feel a slight stretch. There should be no pain. If you feel pain, then you are tight at that point in your range of motion. There is no sense in risking an injury trying to force a range of motion achievement.

One: Can you extend both arms overhead? Not just so the hands are above the head but with the elbows straight and the arms covering the ears. Make sure the back is straight and not arching. Limited range of motion in the shoulder can be made up by the back arching.

Two: If you stand with your back against a wall and bend both arms at the elbows to 90 degrees, can you rotate your arms outward so both hands touch the wall? Make sure the back doesn’t arch.

Three: If you stand straight with one hand behind your lower back, can you reach your hand upward toward your shoulder blades?

Women perform this range of motion test when they get undressed. Can you unhook your bra from the back just as easily with both hands?

These tests simulate normal range-of-motion requirements. If you have limitations, that could be a sign that you are tight in some areas. I recommend stretching first to help restore mobility in the limbs. The PVC stretch featured today can help.

After you have range of motion back, focus on strengthening your shoulders with tempo movements. You can use any shoulder exercise; just press or contract like normal and release slowly. When I train athletes through stability using tempo I count aloud for them. This is necessary. As people get tired they speed up the count. I make sure to remain constant so they get the best stimulus to achieve the desired result.

Since movement at some point or another is probably responsible for the tight shoulders anyway, make sure you are performing your movements correctly. Ask a trainer at your local gym for help.

Chris Huth is a Las Vegas trainer. He can be reached at 702trainer@gmail.com. If you are a Las Vegas trainer and want to share your love of fitness as a guest coach, please contact him. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.

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