Shoulder pain and dysfunction are common complaints among people who regularly lift weights and professionals whose work requires lifting, throwing or moving heavy objects.

For many of you working daily with clients, helping them avoid injuries while lifting weights by promoting the proper form should be your number one priority.

Over the next two weeks, you’ll learn some simple, common sense fundamentals you can share with clients that will help them correct common problems they may be experiencing while lifting weights, so you can concentrate on more pressing health concerns.

1. Correct the posture first.

The static yet dynamic relationship between the shoulder girdle, neck, head and jaw is very complex, but can be simplified down to the fact that the shoulder hangs from the head and neck. Plus, the primary sources of innervation of the shoulder and rotator cuff musculature emanate from the cervical spine.

10 Lifting Tips to Prevent Shoulder Injuries Part 1

Figure 1

Good posture (Figure 1 right) provides adequate space for nerve structures and allows for normal load sharing of the shoulder girdle and rotator cuff musculature. However, poor posture and forward head positioning (Figure 1 left) are the common results of too much sitting, faulty lifting techniques and muscular imbalance which disrupt the optimal functioning of the shoulder, possibly leading to a breakdown of the supraspinatus tendon if left unchecked.

10 Lifting Tips to Prevent Shoulder Injuries Part 1

Figure 2

Similarly, athletes or workers may create an imbalance from the excessive use of their dominant arm. The entire shoulder girdle can be significantly altered as the scapula (shoulder blade) moves away from its optimal position – for the physiologically minded, it migrates out of the frontal plane and into the sagittal plane – which can lead to nerve entrapment and degenerative changes in the sternoclavicular joint.

It is very important for C.H.E.K practitioners to teach their clients how to use corrective exercises and stretches to regain optimal posture, and also perform exercises while holding good postural alignment (Figure 2).

2. Mobilize the thoracic spine.

Adequate extension of the thoracic spine is important for protecting the shoulder from impingement and excessive strain once the shoulder joint reaches 140 degrees or more of flexion.

To begin mobilizing the spine — after performing a Thoracic Extension Test — you’ll need a foam roller with a diameter of 4 inches (10 cm). Place the foam roller perpendicular to the spine, slightly below the shoulder blades.

Cradle your neck with your hands, but don’t hold your head (Figure 4). Inhale gently and slowly drop backward over the foam roller toward the floor. Go slow and only as far as you can comfortably go. Hold it for 3-5 seconds, then sit up and move the foam roller up one vertebra and repeat the mobilization.