The human shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body, and that makes it the most vulnerable to injury. To be honest i'm surprised there aren't more busted shoulders floating around.
With the amount of dodgy shoulder pressing I see going on, or the amount of snatching with locked up thoracic's, it's actually really surprising that some people can lift their arms above their heads at all.
Theres a whole list of complaints that crop up with the shoulders such as impingement, tears, joint separations, tendonitis, frozen shoulder etc etc.
I'm going to cover the three most common shoulder complaints and how you can start to identify them at home. If any of these tests point towards positive, make sure and book in with a physio to have it confirmed. these tests are just to give you a starting point down the road to identifying the problem.
The shoulder is a really difficult joint to diagnose as it could be one problem or a combination of problems causing the issue, so make sure you are paying attention during these tests to notice any compensations.
So we are going to cover shoulder impingement, bicep tendonitis and a rotator cuff tear.
The space where your rotator cuff tendons and shoulder bursa live becomes smaller when your arm is raised. If you feel pain when your arm is raised during this test it is a sign that you may have some sort of impingement in the shoulder, either in the bursa or tendons.
How to perform the test:
While seated, have someone raise the arm of your sore shoulder to the front and overhead as far as possible.
Your partner should use one hand on your arm and the other hand supporting your shoulder blade (scapula).
try to keep your arm as relaxed as possible and let your friend move the arm.
2. Bicep tendonitis.
Arguably the problem that wears people down the most is bicep tendonitis because its just a such a dull constant pain.
To check whether you could have tendonitis perform this test:
While seated, raise your painful arm, forward to the front.
While holding your arm out straight in front of you, turn your palm up (supinated), so it is facing the roof.
You friend should then push your arm down gently, while you attempt to resist the push.
Pain felt in the front of your shoulder or going down into the top of the bicep while resisting the arm push means biceps tendonitis could be the cause of the pain.
3. Rotator cuff tear.
There are a few ways to test the rotator cuff tears but one of my favourites is a drop test.
While seated, have your friend raise the painful arm to the side and parallel to the floor.
With your arm relaxed and your friend taking the weight, the friend lets your arm drop.
The muscles should automatically activate and engage to "catch" your arm and stop it falling.
If your arm drops involuntarily and you are unable to maintain that parallel position you may have a rotator cuff tear. Some people may compensate for a torn rotator cuff by elevating the scapula toward the ear or shrugging the shoulder up. Be careful to ask your friend to keep an eye out for this.
If you suffer from any of these three common shoulder problems, all is not lost!
I have two exercises that will help get you back on the road to doing whatever you want without taking ages to set up or having to do 5,000,000 reps.
For the possible rotator cuff tears out there i would recommend doing cuban rotations.
This exercise works all four rotator cuffs and is easily in my top three shoulder exercises ever.
Check it out below.
And for the tendonitis and impingement problems I always go straight to an old exercise we used to warm up with in circus school.
The reason I love this exercise is because it will give you indestructable shoulders. it really will.
Have a look. The only thing I will say is start gently.
You don't have to be stuck with painful shoulders.
If you have shoulders that need attention, check out the Reset Series here.