Wow, the holiday season, Christmas for me, has clobbered my time, priorities and thought processes. But, that happens every year so I shouldn’t be surprised. And, a confession is in order. About 3 months ago I managed to strain my left shoulder rotator complex, the subscapularis to be specific, and have had a terrible time trying to heal and get back into action. It is hard to write really positive stuff about the amazing benefits of weight training, when I’m crippled up, even if I know it’s temporary.
How did I get this messed up? I think it started with insufficient warm-up on a Friday (Back, traps & biceps), and then starting lat- pulls (on the high-reach Hammer Strength machine) with too much weight. That is an almost certain way to get injured if you’re over 60. The next Monday I felt the tenderness doing my rotator warm-up, the outward rotation hurt at the end of the range. So I ignored that warning and did a fairly heavy Chest, abs & triceps workout, after which I knew I had hurt something. But Wednesday is leg day, and that was fine; by Friday I was ready to hit my back again. Stupidly, I ignored the yet louder protest from my shoulder, and by the end of the workout I was sure that I had torn something seriously.
I took two weeks off; it didn’t feel any better, so I decided to fix it or kill it and started back like nothing happened. So, I killed it! That took me to my Orthopedist (Dr. Greg Hartman, Simi Valley/Thousand Oaks, CA – the greatest!) who chewed me out, showed me what I had done and told me to take 600mg of Motrin twice/day and get to physical therapy.
The therapist was puzzled by the lack of development of my rhomboids relative to the rest of my back/shoulder structure. She pointed out that lack-of-tone there lets my shoulders roll forward causing impingement of the bicepital tendon, and probably led to the vulnerability of the rotator and the resulting injury. She gave me stretch-band exercises to strengthen the rhomboids and everything that pulls the shoulders back. For my twice-weekly sessions she does deep massage that is far more pain than pleasure, orders me to do lots of 30 rep sets with bands and light weights, gives it a dose of ultrasound and then ices it down. After two months of treatment it is finally starting to resolve; I can take off a T-shirt without pain, but it is still fragile.
The painful part is that I’m the expert, damn-it, and I hate giving my very loving nurse-wife the opportunity to remind me that I just could be overdoing this exercise thing.
- Always warm up the body core with at least 5 minutes of light aerobic stuff.
- Warm up the muscles to be worked with slow, hi-rep, light-weight moves.
- Increase the weights at a reasonable pace for ascending sets.
- Have an Orthopedist and a physical therapist on tap.
- See them sooner rather than later when something hurts like it shouldn’t.
- Get a coach who can watch for weaknesses and imbalances that could lead to injury.
Frank Wilhelmi – Retired/consultant electronic engineer researches and reports practical strategies for optimizing health and fitness into advanced age. “I have a passion for living life to the fullest, and helping others to do the same.” A rapidly growing body of knowledge now enables us to extend our health and fitness decades beyond popular expectations.