Climbers, do you have shoulder pain? Do you know how to fix it? - Runners Edge Physio
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Climbers, do you have shoulder pain? Do you know how to fix it?

Natalie Snyder, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Board-Certified Orthopaedic Clinician Specialist
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Shoulders Specialist & Female Athlete Specialist

Hi climbers!

I hear many climbers having pin-point shoulder pain and feeling “unstable”, feeling “sharp”, and they would often jump back down and give up on the problem because they’re afraid that it’ll make their shoulder worse.  They feel like they have hit their wall and can’t progress any further.  They feel like they can’t have that courage to make that big “dyno move” to grab onto the holds and feel stable even if they swing out.  So, their climbing skills may plateau, and it stinks… it may feel frustrating or embarrassing for them.  Well, if they found a way to fix this shoulder issue, they will be able to take care of it, and get back on the wall with confidence!

Let’s talk this through the Shoulder Rotator Cuff Strength.

Shoulder Rotator Cuff Strength

  • So many climbers don’t realize that each arm movements require intensive scapular stability and rotator cuff stability to maintain the humeral head centered upon the glenoid plate of the scapula.
    • The shoulder joint has the widest range of motion and reach capability.
    • But the catch is: the scapula must rotate up to allow the humerus bone to reach vertically.  If you can’t reach straight up, the problem may not be the joint itself, but the scapular rotation.

The shoulder movement and strength are so COMPLEX!

Pictured Left:

The arm elevation depends on not only the arm bone flexing upward, but also the rotation of the shoulder blade to face the plate for the humeral head to “sit on” while you reach higher.

  • We have the Active and Passive stabilizers for the shoulder joint that looks like a skinny golf ball-and-pin joint.
    • Passive Stabilizers: We cannot strengthen the ligaments, labrum, and shoulder capsule, but we can protect it from undue injuries and overtraining.
  • Active Stabilizers: We CAN strengthen the upper-back, scapular, rotator cuff, arm and forearm muscles for those will in turn to increase the stability of the shoulder joint.

How to strengthen the shoulder stabilizers?

Banded exercises pictured above: External Rotation, Internal Rotation, D1 Pick-Up and Cross, D2 Draw the Sword.  Progress from Phase 1 Wall-Slides, to Phase 2 Single-arm 90-90 external rotation, then Phase 3 Double arm W’s.

Disclaimer: Since we don’t know you, we can’t prescribe exercises to fit you, your body, and your activity tolerance. These exercises are only a suggestion. Approach these with caution, listen to your body. If you have questions, we will be happy to answer them!

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