Do you have shoulder pain?
Is your AC joint the cause?
The majority of AC dislocations occur between the age of 20 and 39 years. A study performed at the United States Military Academy between the years 2005-2009 concluded that, “Overall, male patients experienced a significantly higher incidence rate for AC joint injuries than female patients”.
AC joint pain is a chronic condition. I have had AC joint pain for 6 years and 2 AC joint specific surgeries. I started lifting heavy weights at the young age of 12 without a teacher/coach/trainer with knowledge, or the knowledge I have acquired to combat muscular imbalance, laid the foundation for shoulder instability for many years to come. In high school, I power lifted; my most competitive lift was bench press. I vaguely knew correct form but didn’t know what or how to work my shoulder muscles away from the basic deltoid. From my personal experience, over use of prime movers such as chest, upper trap and shoulder presses and then not working the opposing muscle at an equal ratio causes the most muscular imbalance.
Sign and Symptoms:
o Pain at the end of the collar bone.
o Pain may feel widespread throughout the shoulder until the initial pain resolves; following this it is more likely to be a very specific site of pain over the joint itself.
o Swelling often occurs.
o Depending on the extent of the injury a step-deformity may be visible. This is an obvious lump where the joint has been disrupted and is visible on more severe injuries.
o Pain on moving the shoulder, especially when trying to raise the arms above shoulder height.
We only have 1 AC joint and rotator cuff per shoulder. You can’t replace the joint itself, but you can take preventative measures to prevent further damage, as well as purposefully strengthen the joint.
Exercises that cause damage to the AC joint
o Barbell Upright rows
- Causes shoulder impingement (rub) against the AC joint.
o Barbell Bench press/ Decline bench press/ Incline bench press
- Having elbows farther away from the body (wider grip) not only shortens the range of motion for the exercise, but causes significantly more stress on the joint.
o Push ups
- Hand in front of, and not under, the shoulders as well as elbows away from the body causes unnecessary force applied to joint.
o Weighted shoulder shrugs with roll
- At the top of the shrug, rolling the shoulder forward or back moves force away from the upper traps, resulting in impingement of joint.
o LAT pull downs (behind head)
- Externally rotates shoulder and maxes out the travel of the rotator cuff, therefore causing pain and joint impingement.
Exercises that benefit the AC joint
o Back row
– Begin each exercise with one arm at a time, then progress to using arms simultaneously.
– Use light hand weights.
– Prone position on bench or table is preferred so as to prevent upper trap and neck involvement.
– Each of these exercises will utilize the muscles around the AC joint and shoulder complex, including the middle and lower trap. Strengthening these muscles will reduce the amount of pressure the joint incurs during day-to-day activities, as well as eliminating muscular imbalances, therefore reducing pain.
These exercises can apply to most shoulder injuries or instabilities, even if you are not suffering specifically from AC joint pain.
2000-2011: 8.2% of the injuries in 12 NFL seasons were shoulder injuries. AC joint injuries comprised 29.2% of all shoulder injuries reported. http://www.drdavidgeier.com/ac-joint-shoulder-injuries-nfl-football/