That pain or stiffness you're experiencing in your shoulders whenever you lift your arms may not be due to a few tough days at the gym. You could be suffering from shoulder impingement, a medical condition characterized by inflamed rotator cuff tendons and usually caused by overuse or improper form. A byproduct of abducting the humerus (large arm bone) above 90 degrees, it's often referred to as swimmer's shoulder, pitcher's shoulder or supraspinatus syndrome. If rest and ice do not treat the condition, bone spurs may grow, resulting in a torn rotator cuff muscle. (Learn how to prevent this condition.)
Between the humerus and scapula is a small space called the subacromial, which contains a protective sac called a bursa. This allows bones to safety glide over each other. Imagine a ziploc bag with five to 10 drops of water in it. If you pinch your index finger and thumb together, the smooth gliding that takes place represents exactly what a bursa sac does. It provides a smooth articulation for bones. Raising your arms above shoulder height (90 degrees) may irritate this sac, causing inflammation.
With a shoulder injury, ice is your best friend. Aim for four to five sessions per day, icing between 10 and 15 minutes and after exercise.
To set the record straight, I am not a doctor or physical therapist, so you should always consult a doctor and have him or her check out any injuries.
Shoulder Impingement Exercises
Exercises to Avoid
I recommend eliminating any exercise above your head, such as Presses, Pull-Ups and Lat Pull-downs. Full range of motion exercises like Bench Presses, Push-Ups and any variations of Wide Grip Rows should also be avoided. These exercises get into the transverse plane of motion and are likely to exacerbate the condition. Any exercise that causes discomfort should be avoided as well.
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