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The Shoulder Impingement Rehab/Prehab

Dec 25, 2022

We already talked about shoulder impingement in our previous blogs. But this time, let’s dive into shoulder impingement rehab and prehab. 

What is Shoulder Impingement?

You have four muscles comprising your rotator cuff, one of which is your supraspinatus. The supraspinatus muscle is located in the supraspinous fossa of the scapula, superior to the scapular spine, and it’s positioned at the top of the rotator cuff muscles. 

So when the supraspinatus muscle gets caught under the bone called the acromion, you’d feel a deep sharp sensation inside that joint. Hence, if your shoulder feels a little achy, or it feels like it pinches in there, then it could be shoulder impingement.

Why Knowing this is Important for Climbers?

As climbers, when you’re required to reach overhead, it’s going to limit your ability to do so if you have a shoulder impingement. As you start to feel these little aches and pains, and you find it not important to get checked with an expert for recovery, then you’ll have a risk of making it worse. If nothing changes, then nothing changes. So if you don't do anything about it, you will always feel the pain caused by the shoulder impingement. 

What Can We Do About It?

If you feel that impingement in your shoulder, what I recommend you to do is the exercise called the shoulder unwinding. You’re going to press your palm against the wall and push into it. Doing so will push your shoulder away, and you’ll start to feel a stretch and that can feel like nerve tension and/or a stretch of your whole shoulder. 

What I like to do is just start moving where I think it needs the attention and then I'll feel a spot that I'll just hang around with, and I'll let it unwind and release. You can feel a good stretch there where it kind of hurts or catches - just follow what your body is telling you to do. You can set a timer for eight to ten minutes while doing it. Be very mindful and intentional of your movement during this whole exercise to take advantage of the benefits it’s giving to your shoulder health. 

My Recommendations

When I work with climbers, I try to make them climb or reincorporate climbing into their rehab as soon as I can. I know the severity of the injury, and I know whether they're ready for climbing again or not. So I couldn't tell you specifically if you're at the phase where you should get back into climbing. 

However, as a general rule, I would not just say don't climb anymore altogether unless the injury was severe. But if it's severe, I'll have them take time off from climbing completely for maybe a few weeks. So as soon as I think it's appropriate, I’ll go ahead and tell them to get back into climbing.

Moreover, if you planned to make a climbing trip or something coming up, you would most likely need hands-on care. Working with a professional allows you to do so much more than you could do on your own. So it’ll still be the best idea to get in touch with a physical therapist in your area for your shoulder impingement treatment. 

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