CLINIC: Minimizing Rotator Cuff Pain During Presses
Wed, 22 Aug. 2012 - 7:37 p.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association
When I perform the military press during my regular weight training, I experience pain in my shoulders. I have had arthroscopic surgery on one shoulder twice, due to an injury to the rotator cuff 15 years ago. However, the pain from the military press is in both shoulders. I am 46 and have been lifting weights since my early teens. As I have gotten older, I’ve reduced the amount of weight I lift. Still, I would rather not give up the military press, unless you know of a weight training exercise that would give me similar, pain-free results to the same muscle group. I did notice that if I skip a week of weight training, I can usually resume the routine pain-free.
Even though both were performed on just one shoulder, the two previous surgeries have no doubt complicated your situation. And even a successful surgery will leave scar tissue in the shoulder joint. Regardless of surgery, many people feel pain in their rotator cuff when they lift their arms above their head, a phenomenon known as shoulder impingement syndrome. The military press would certainly qualify as an exacerbating activity.
You can take action on several fronts to help your condition. For starters, pay strict attention to posture. Try to keep your shoulders from drooping forward throughout the day. If you have not been performing seated rows or reverse flies, add them to your routine. These are scapular retraction exercises, which should help. Eliminate movements that aggravate your shoulders; though you should perform shoulder and chest stretches on a daily basis, only stretch to a point that does not aggravate them. Replace bench presses with incline bench presses, at least for the time being. In lieu of the military press, do front, lateral, and posterior raises, again hopefully just for now.
Be sure to give it six to eight weeks. If after that your symptoms persist, you may need more intensive therapeutic treatment and I suggest scheduling a visit with a sports medicine specialist.
Doug Lentz, CSCS
The rotator cuff muscles provide the stability your shoulder needs to perform the movements created by the prime movers of the joint. As you engage in a strengthening program that includes shoulder presses, your larger shoulder muscles become stronger and create a greater imbalance of strength between them and the rotator cuff muscles. To continue with shoulder presses, you could try altering your range of motion, the angle at which you press, and your hand position, any one of which may take the burden off the shoulder that had the surgeries. You can accomplish this using dumbbells instead of a machine, which has a fixed path of movement. As noted above, a regimen of rotator cuff strengthening exercises should be added to your program. A visit to an orthopedist would help you both receive a proper diagnosis and get more details on which exercises to add.
Greg Tymon, MEd, CSCS
East Stroudsburg, PA
(RUNNING & FITNEWS® March / April 2010 • Volume 28, Number 2)
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