Shoulder Pain. I think this journey starts with my back. It may sound weird but bear with me, I think you deserve to hear why I’ve gone down this avenue, a bit of background as to why I use these methods to help heal my body. I probably should also mention that I am in no way an ‘educated’ man. I’m a high school drop out. Most of my learnings have come from horrible life experiences and my own loose studies. But with this sort of post, I will bring in the words, experience and teachings from my industry heros. People I look up to and people who I’ve found to have similar mindsets.
Let me start at the start, shall we? About 15 years ago, I broke my back. Well, that all depends on who you speak to. I fell from about 10ft to my back, immediately sending waves of pain throughout my body. I stood up and continued riding my BMX albeit in great pain. Driving home in my lowered car was equally painful. Two weeks later I stumbled into a doctor’s office to hear some advice. X-rays were done and shoulders shrugged. “I have no idea why you’re in pain” said the doctor, “Here’s some drugs; go away.” I had appointments with the osteopath, physiotherapist, chiropractor and more. Some would say, “there’s no break” while others would point to my L-4 vertebrae and show me the very clear gap that “shouldn’t be there” and was “very clearly a break.” Despite all this, no one could fix my back and they all wanted to either “do another adjustment” or prescribe me endless drugs.
This wasn’t the way I worked and 10 F&$KING years on, when riding home one evening, I hurt it again. Standing up, sitting down, lying down, bending over, all hurt. Almost unbearable pain. Speaking to a few people, I found Velika’s Way. After a 2 week wait, I finally got my appointment. About 20 minutes later, I’d had a detailed explanation of my injury and how to fix/prevent it in the future. I was told, “I don’t want to see you again for this.” There was no drugs, no further adjustments just advice that worked. AND IT HAS WORKED!! 5 years on, my back is stronger than ever. The best thing? She didn’t even touch my back! That’s right, Velika explained the pain was due to my body not being aligned properly and showed me how my calves were pulling my back the wrong way.
It was at this time that BMX king, Ruben Alcantara had a similar experience.
Anyway, so what’s this got to do with my shoulder? Well, EVERYTHING. Basically, it opened my eyes and it opened my ears. I started to listen to my body. Weird. My body was telling me so much more than I ever realised so when I hurt my shoulder a while back, I knew full well there was something not right within my body.
I spoke to a few people about my shoulder and also looked at myself in the mirror. This is what I found…
My posture SUCKS
Absolute number one: My posture. Years of riding bikes and sitting at a computer has done nothing my hunch my shoulders forward. While not being great for the previously mentioned back issue, it’s been horrendous for my shoulder(s). This is one of the hardest things to rectify. It’s an every minute of every day kinda problem. So, what do I do? Well, I’ve set up reminders for myself. I use triggers (I’ve got a post coming next month about triggers and how to use them) to remind me to “STAND UP STRAIGHT, Stephen!” I make sure, as I’m told time and time again by my coach, to reset where my shoulders are. This is happening a hundred times a day or more. Well, maybe not this week and thus the need to write this post.
I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’ve been spending a lot of time changing my entire life, lifting weights and using my body to build strength. My favourite movement is the trusty pull-up. She’s a beaut! All that hanging on my shoulders though, when set incorrectly, has had significant affect on my shoulder health. Put simply, my shoulders aren’t (weren’t?) strong enough to cope, not in the current position. Not with poor posture. Mobility, stability then strength!
Coming from a freestyle BMX background, riddled with bad habits, stretching wasn’t even thought of before putting my body through strenuous activity. Well, well, well. Hasn’t that changed. Now, I won’t start playing on the bars without a good, 15-30 minute stretch and warm up beforehand. I’m stretching everything, too. My favourite is laying on a foam roller and stretching out from my shoulders to my butt. Then stretching my chest with the same roller. From there, I’ll hang on the bar for a while. Just a dead hang and starting with both arms ensuring my shoulders are set correctly before hanging from each arm individually letting them strecth out further and increasing mobility.
Rest hasn’t been my friend. The more I rested, the more shoulder pain experienced when I wanted to train. So, what I did was increased my workload. I did more pull-ups, something I was told to avoid, but I focussed on ensuring my position was solid. I went on and did a hundred pull-ups a day and found that this was the moment my shoulder felt it’s best since initially hurting it. Now I’ve stepped away from doing so many pull-ups, my shoulder pain has returned. Hmmmm. I should also mention, I’ve lagged recently on my regular shoulder reset, posture triggers.
If riding my bike was tightening my calves and making my back hurt, what was happening to my feet with tight, narrow shoes? I was coming home and kicking the boots off as soon as possible not to put them back on until the next work day started. My feet could breathe, and move, and feel, and strengthen. It became rare to see me with shoes on. Then I found VivoBareFoot shoes and have since worn these flat out, pun intended. I’ve noticed a bunch of things change. The way my feet track, the way my arch feels like it is working, the strength in my toes and more. There’s been some adjustments as I stand on a concrete floor for hours at work, but even then, I’m seeing improvements, not only in my feet, but, somehow, in my shoulders. Probably from just improving the way I stand.
This is a 24 hour a day, seven days a week kinda thing. I found no point in going to the gym and focussing on my positions during lifts if I wasn’t going to continue that throughout the rest of my day and night. I find myself checking my posture at work as much as at the dinner table. I brush my teeth checking my shoulder position and I sleep in a way that tries to keep a neutral position. Every single hour, for the most part, I’m making my own adjustments.
Again, this was drilled into me by my (old) coach, but engage everything. When doing a movement like a muscle-up, keep everything switched on. A muscle-up with a solid core is much easier than one of those loosey-goosey cross-fit kip thingys. But, using a solid core through a kipped muscle-up can translate to fluid salmon ladder ascends. ENGAGE EVERYTHING.
So, what now?
Over the coming weeks, I’ll publish some shoulder pain stories from my favourite fitness superheroes. The people that have helped me the most and the people who I think will be able to help you on the road to a healthy body.
Have you got any comments? Let me know your thoughts below. For me now, I must go find balance on a slackline. PEACE