Many of us at one point or another have dealt or are dealing with some form of pain in our shoulders. Sometimes we try stretching them, backing off weight in workouts, or massaging shoulders with a lacrosse ball and things never seem to be 100%. That’s because typical soreness in shoulders is a result of something else.
The usual culprits: Latissimus dorsi (Lats), Pectoralis Major/Minor (Pecs) and your Subscapularis (Scap). All of these muscles share the function of internal rotation of the shoulder. Put your arms out in front of you and turn your thumbs down - this is internal rotation. Many of us think about the shoulders themselves but neglect to treat the muscles that put pressure on our shoulder when we try to move it through a specific range of motion. If these muscles are tight, it can put added pressure on to our shoulder joint and rotator cuff which is the pain we feel. Sitting all day at a desk job and not using our range of motion can cause us to become even more stiff.
So what are some stretches I can do to improve my shoulder mobility?
- Use a lacrosse ball and lay on your stomach. Position the lacrosse ball underneath your right pec with the right hand by your side palm facing up. Slowly try and raise your palm to the ceiling while keeping a straight arm. Raise your arm 15-20 times then switch sides. If laying on the ball is too much pressure, try and position yourself in a doorway or against a wall.
- Walk into a doorway and put your elbow against the frame at shoulder height. Try and lean through the door and stretch your pec.
- Foam roll your lats! For many of us, this is not pleasant. Lie on your side with a foam roller underneath your lat. Instead of moving the roller, move your arm through a range of motion. Try and do several passthroughs and relax as your doing this.
- Stretching your subscapularis is difficult to do by yourself. The easiest way to release your scap is to find a pull-up bar that you can comfortably reach while standing. Grab the bar in a supinated grip (palms facing you) and slowly let your weight take over. You shouldn’t be hanging off the bar as the goal is to relax but you should feel a stretch here in your back.
The best way to solve these problems is through consistency.
Try the stretches above and in between stretching gently move your shoulder to where you normally have pain. If any of these stretches relieves the pain it should become a priority in your day to day routine. Always try and move in a pain free range of motion, but move. When you avoid certain movements this allows your body to tighten so prioritize improving your active range of motion!