September 10, 2013

Shoulder-Saving Techniques from the Austin Sports Medicine Doctors

Medicine in Motion shares four techniques to improve shoulder stability, mobility, flexibility and strength to aid in avoiding and recovering from injuries.

Austin, Texas (PRWEB) September 10, 2013

The shoulder joint is like a golf ball sitting on a tee, with a very large humeral head (arm bone) and a small joint surface. This lack of stability allows for a great deal of mobility, allowing humans to do things like reach to the rear seat of the car or stretch overhead to change a light bulb. However, due to the shoulder being an inherently unstable joint, it is injury-prone. The Austin sports medicine doctors at Medicine in Motion have some simple strategies to help reduce common injuries to maintain and improve overall shoulder health.

1. Improve Scapular (Shoulder Blade) Stability

The scapula’s (shoulder blade) job is to stabilize the trunk to create a steady base for the arm to move. Think about a crane. It can only lift an object lighter than its base. As with the crane, the arm can only lift safely what the scapula can stabilize. A few exercises to help improve scapular stability include: wall press and slides, rows and prone T’s. Perform each 2-3 sets for 8-12 each to facilitate strength gains of scapular stabilizers.

These exercises train the scapula to do its job to create stability. They would be given early in a rehab program, and a physical therapist can be a great coach to train in the proper performance and advancement of a program to allow the person to perform at the highest possible level.

2. Improve Rotator Cuff Strength

Where the joint lacks bony stability, the human body has a dynamic stabilizer in the rotator cuff. It is a group of four muscles that works to keep the humeral head centered and on-axis in the shoulder joint. When these muscles are weak, aberrant humeral head motion occurs and the joint is left open to injury. Early rehab exercises for rotator cuff strength might include: shoulder external rotation, internal rotation with an elastic band. Perform each for 2-3 sets of 20 reps each. The external rotators will naturally be weaker and less resistance is required for strengthening.

As with the other exercises, these would be modified to increase demand on the muscles by requiring a change in position, speed or load to improve the ability of the rotator cuff to stabilize the humeral head in more demanding activities.

3. Improve Thoracic Spine Mobility

The thoracic spine is made of 12 vertebrae in the chest area and is the area of the spine where the ribs attach. It may come as some surprise, but thoracic spine mobility can influence shoulder health. Most people work in an office where they sit all day. Over time, this can cause an increase in the natural forward bend in the spine called a kyphosis. This increased kyphosis can cause a relative downward rotation of the scapula placing certain rotator cuff muscles at risk due to a change in shoulder mechanics.

Improving mobility of the thoracic spine with exercises such as foam roll extensions and rotations can go a long way to preventing a rotator cuff tear. Be careful to protect the neck throughout the exercise and avoid arching of the neck. Foam roll thoracic extensions should be fairly gentle and performed 10-12 reps per level. Rotations are performed 20 each direction.

4. Improve Chest Flexibility

As people slouch forward for long periods of time at desk jobs, the chest muscles become tight and short. This can pull the shoulders forward causing them to move off axis, increasing the likelihood of rotator cuff or cartilage damage and even leave the shoulders more prone to dislocation. A doorway stretch and foam rolling are great exercises to improve chest muscle flexibility. Where these exercises fall short, a physical therapist is a great asset to provide manual techniques such as myofascial release and massage to improve the soft tissue mobility and flexibility of muscles around the shoulder. Perform pectoral stretches in a corner making sure to keep the neck in a neutral position to avoid poking the chin, and complete 3-4 sets of 30 seconds per set. Perform foam rolling for 20 repetitions per side, making sure to avoid arching of the lower back.

Again, these exercises are quite simple, but a physical therapist or athletic trainer can teach correct performance and make adjustments depending on a person's level of injury or fitness.

Shoulders are a valuable and often-injured joint. These are a few tips to help along the way. For further evaluation, advancement or coaching, see a physical therapist to assist in keeping the shoulders strong and pain free.

Medicine in Motion (MIM) specializes in providing top quality sports medicine in Austin, Texas, for athletic individuals of all ages and levels. The doctors at MIM believe active bodies are healthy bodies, therefore it is the office's goal to keep patients energetic and fit. To that end, MIM provides treatment of injuries and illnesses, including the use of physical rehabilitation; promotes healthy living with personal training and nutrition coaching; and offers comprehensive sports medicine evaluations to optimize health, activity level and sports performance. For more information or for questions regarding sports medicine in Austin, contact Medicine in Motion at 512-257-2500 or visit the website at

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