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What happens when your muscles don’t have proper strength?

shoulder pain

By: Mike Bills, MS PT

Typically there will be no immediate effect to not having the proper strength in a particular muscle in your body. The effects are usually more long term in the sense that “weakness” or lack of proper strength in an area results in excess friction on the bones in the joint, excessive wear and tear on tendons and cartilage around a joint, and more. This is why things like tendonitis get started. Let’s look at shoulder tendonitis as an example. This condition is usually the result of repetitive friction and ‘catching’ of the tendon in the shoulder joint. This occurs due to the lack of strength around the joint with repeated overhead movements, which allows the joint to close on the tendon and cause irritation to it over time.

The lack of strength around a joint is also the leading cause of arthritis and wearing down of cartilage. Think about going up stairs. In this example, it is the job of the hip muscles to control and stabilize the knee cap. This prevents the knee cap from shifting side to side as you go up or down the stairs. If the hip muscles are not able to do this, the knee cap will begin to wear abnormally on the back side, wearing away the cartilage and thus contributing to the onset of arthritis. This is why most times a person with arthritis can eliminate their symptoms with the proper strengthening program to establish good control around the joint and ensure proper mechanics of the joint.

How do you properly set up a strengthening program?

First and foremost, you need to know what the strength of the smaller supporting muscles are in the area you wish to begin to strengthen. Most soft tissue problems such as tendonitis, tears or pain are due to a lack of strength in the supporting, smaller muscles around the area. An expert physical therapist is the only medical profession trained in evaluating how a person moves and comparing that to how the movement should occur. From this evaluation, the physical therapist can then determine what muscles are weak, which ones are strong, which ones are not as strong as others, etc. This is the main focus of any strengthening program and should never be missed under and circumstances.

Once you know that status of what needs to be strengthened, you can start figuring out what to do about these deficits. The most effective way to strengthen a muscle so it can perform all its necessary functions is to:

  1. Make sure to increase the muscles ability to move weight or work against resistance. This would be your typical weight lifting, resistance training, etc.
  2. As soon as the muscle starts to show an increase in its ability to move the weight or work against greater resistance, immediately start to train the muscle through functional movement patterns. For example, once your shoulder blade muscles have begun to get a little bit stronger, you want to start to work them in a functional pattern. This may be movements out the side, out in front of you or even overhead. All of these movements need to be pain free and must show good mechanics in order to achieve the goal of increased strength.
  3. Finally, once you can go through a movement pattern with good mechanics and no pain, you want to begin to work on the conditioning aspect. This would mean gradually increasing repetitions of good mechanics. When you’re able to do the movement pattern for 20 or more repetitions, then it’s time to increase the resistance or the weight that you are using to go through the movement.

If you follow this process, having first established good strength of the smaller supporting muscles, you will undoubtedly see an increase in strength of the large muscles of your body that do the movement.

The benefit to being stronger and strengthening properly is that you will experience a significant decrease in pain, decrease your potential for injury, and experience an overall greater ease of activity and movement with everything you do during the day.

This all starts with knowing what muscles to work and how to work them correctly.  The expert Physical Therapists at Loudoun Sports Therapy Center are here to get you properly started on a strengthening program that is right for you; one that will allow you to live life pain free and without the potential for injury both as you get started and as you progress.  There are no other movement specialists out there that can ensure that.  So if you are having any kind of pain or difficulty moving, or if you want to just start an exercise program, we are here to help you get the results you desire and do it without risk of injury. Call TODAY at 703-450-4300.

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