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Scapula Therapy for a Sore Shoulder

By Miguel J. Ortiz

When it comes to your upper body, shoulder pain tends to be very common and one of the most tolerated injuries that I see every day. When your day job doesn’t utilize much upper body strength your posture, over time, can manipulate the shoulder causing improper mobility and movement. Some people workout and still get shoulder pain. No one is exempt from shoulder issues.

So, if we want to fix our shoulder issues we need to work on core strength. We must understand a very important area of the body, the scapula. The shoulder blade, as we commonly know it, is only vital for posture and assists in all upper body movements. To get started we need a foam roller and a lacrosse or massage ball. Now, we can look at the three main areas around the shoulder blade and ways to assist in bringing some relief.

First, if you’re having trouble simply raising your arm it could be the latissimus dorsi muscles (LAT) which could be pulling down on the shoulder causing internal rotation. There are plenty of ways to stretch the shoulder, but I find foam rolling extremely effective. Lay on your side, placing the foam roller just underneath your armpit, your arm of that side needs to be over the roller and your head can either rest on your arm or I recommend grabbing a pillow and placing it between your head and shoulder so you can rest and ease into the pressure. If you’re in quite a bit of pain and you find the pressure is deeper you may want to see a trainer or massage therapist who knows how to help release spots that are hard to hit with a roller.

The second area of focus as we continue to stay on the posterior, or back of the body, is the upper, mid and lower trapezius. Grab your lacrosse ball and an open spot against the wall. Start by putting your back against the wall with your feet about a foot and a half apart and knees lightly bent. Place the massage ball either over the right or left side of your trap, just to the left or right of the spine. Once in place, stand a little taller allowing the ball to be manipulated by your positioning so you can either focus on upper traps, our general stress holder, mid traps which is in between the shoulder blade and spine, and the lower traps which you may need to reposition for it to be comfortable. Allowing the ball to get that low will require some unique repositioning as we want to be able to focus on the release of the shoulder, not a struggle against the wall. Some of these positions can also be done on the floor if more pressure is needed.

Finally, your chest, this area tends to be very tight when it comes to bad posture as most cases have serious kyphosis, which an excessive curvature of the thoracic spine or middle back I find most people naturally have a tight chest with this position. We have all seen 90 degree or door frame stretches and I like those a lot as long as the shoulder is not internally rotated during the stretch. But with the corner of the wall you can also use the lacrosse ball to massage the chest and on the floor using a larger ball, a soft ball and even your foam roller will do. This kind of therapy and consistent pressure on the muscle when done properly will have an amazing effect on your recovery. Focus on these three areas when it comes to the shoulder and you’ll be moving that shoulder freely in no time.

Miguel J. Ortiz is a personal trainer in Atlanta, Georgia. He is a member of the National Personal Trainer Institute and a Certified Nutritional Consultant with more than a decade of professional experience. He can be found on Instagram at @migueljortiz.

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