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Shoulder The Load For Greater Strength

You love the look of a well-developed shoulder, but all that weight work may cause more harm than good. Here's how to make sure your body's most mobile joint stays strong and healthy.

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The shoulder is the most flexible joint in the body, but it's also one of the most injured. Blame its hypermobility (no other joint can move 360 degrees) and underlying instability. But your workout routine may also be causing trouble. "Shoulder injuries are often the result of imbalances between the chest and back muscles, particulary the pectoralis major, the infraspinatus, and deltoid muscles," says Alvin Brown, an osteopath and clinical director of the Centre for Healing and Personal Potential in Ontario, Canada. These imbalances are often linked with tightness and inflexibility. Poor lifting technique can also caue problems. The most common shoulder injuries include tendinitis, bursitis, and tears. If you have a loss of full range of motion above 90 degrees and pain when moving your arm around, you're most likely suffering from one of these injuries, Brown says. Here's how to ID the issue you're dealing with and what you can do to prevent it from happening in the first place. 

How To Treat

Step 1: Rice. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation work best in early stages. Cold therapy is especially helpful to reduce pain and inflammation. 

Step 2: Altnerate heat and ice. Contrast therapy may be more beneficial if the injury is more than a few days old, since it increases blood flow to the injured area. 

Step 3: For chronic shoulder pain, avoid any overhead exercises that involve continuously moving the arm below to above shoulder level. 

Shoulder Pain Diagnosis

IF PAIN IS: Coming in gradually over time but goes away with warmup; felt on outside or front of shoulder, spreading down to elbow; felt at night, especially when lying on affected shoulder; getting worse when raising arms or lifiting overhead; felt during heavy pushing or pulling movements. 

 >> You may have: Rotator cuff and biceps tendinitis or subacromial bursitis. Tendinitis is an inflammation of tendons, often due to repetitive movements. It can occur with bursitis, an inflammation of the bursa (a fluid-filled sac at top of shoulders). 

IF PAIN IS: Sharp or dull ache deep in the shoulder; accompanied by weakness when lfiting hand above shoulder height, when reaching behind back, or rotating arm; felt at night, especially when lyin gon affected shoulder, felt at rest as condition progresses. 

>> You may have: Rotator cuff tear. A tear can occur under heavy loads (such as lifting too heavy of a weight overhead), but it's more commonly caused by repeated microtrauma that wears the rotator cuff tendons over time. 

IF PAIN IS: Tender to touch at front of shoulder or made worse with lifting, pulling, or repetitive overhead reaching; accompanied by a "catching" or "clicking" in the shoulder with movement; causing difficulty reaching behind back and overhead. 

>> You may have: biceps tendinitis. Although it's in the biceps muscle, continuous or repetitive overuse of the biceps tendon can be felt through overhead movements, rotator cuff tears, and chronic shoulder instability due to weakness in the rotator cuff and upper-back muscles. 

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