Got Shoulder Pain When Lifting Weights? A case study on why the shoulder may not the problem.
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A middle-aged woman who includes Olympic Weightlifting as part of her exercise regimen came to one of our human performance clinics recently with pain in her left scapula (shoulder blade). She had a history of lower back pain on her right side, and her right hip would hurt when she squatted. She had never seen a physical therapist before, but had been seeing a chiropractor for the past 3 years. Her shoulder hurts when weightlifting and it occurs almost all the time.
Overhead movements and push-ups bothered her the most, and when she sat still her shoulder blade ached.
The chiropractor visits would help her feel better for a few hours after each adjustment, but her back pain would return by the evening or next morning. We took her through a full body movement exam and found that her left shoulder was missing adequate internal rotation and her neck movement was not optimal in any direction. She felt neck and shoulder pain when she bent her neck forward or backwards, and her left shoulder felt tight when testing internal rotation.During the evaluation, we found she had limited torque in her shoulders, a forward head posture, and moved with a slightly overextended spine, meaning she could not completely access her glutes and diaphragm when moving. That is why her shoulder hurts when weightlifting.
Instead of focusing on just her shoulder, we tackled her neck and thoracic spine. We started with fixing her breathing and head position in every day activities We then worked on her upper thoracic spine mobility and her neck motor control. Not once did we need to touch her shoulder. After three visits, her re-testing of movements showed normal internal rotation in her shoulder, zero scapular pain, improved neck flexion and extension (still not 100%, but no pain), and best of all back to Olympic Lifting at 60% of her one-rep maxes (1RM) with better spinal position and torque in the shoulders. Using the video-based home program we gave her, she should be able to progress back to 1RM lifts over the next 3 weeks.
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