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Shoulder Injury Prevention for Overhead lifting: The importance of Thoracic Mobility

Shoulder Injury Prevention for Overhead lifting: The importance of Thoracic Mobility

Lifting weights overhead has become increasingly popular in the past few years. Unfortunately, as overhead lifting is not a movements regularly required of most individuals on a daily basis they cause injury more frequently, particularly when learning new movements or increasing load lifted overhead. You may have noticed from session to session some overhead positions such as a shoulder press or snatch feel easier to perform, or how others in your training group move more freely into these positions then yourself. The ease of movement is affected by multiple factors; strength, experience/practice of the movement, tension in muscles, mobility of joints, neuromuscular connections often referred to as muscle memory. By improving these factors movements become less strained thereby reducing injury risk. This blog will focus on how improving the mobility of the thoracic spine can reduce the risk of injury to the shoulders.

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Studies have found the important link between the movement of the shoulder and thorax and how restriction in the thorax can lead to dysfunction of shoulder movement which may lead to injury. (1, 2) Research findings report a significant link between a common shoulder injury, Impingement Syndrome and restriction in the thoracic spine movement. (2) When our arms move above our head our thoracic spine will start to bend backwards and if we are using one arm it will tilt and rotate also. (1) In many individuals these movements may be stiff and restricted there are many causes for this, a few common causes include: stress/tension, prolonged desk work, long periods of driving. There are many exercise’s that can help improve mobility of the joints of the thoracic spine including but not limited to thread the needle, cat-cow, thoracic rolling, sphinx stretch. It is important to note that mobility in joints will not improve overnight and that it requires some ongoing management to prevent restriction returning. My recommendation is to complete a few of these exercise’s most days for around 2-3 weeks to reduce stiffness, also completing them prior to exercise session’s where overhead lifting is a focus.

If you have any further questions regarding this topic please book an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists at Mount Lawley Physiotherapy and Podiatry.

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