Around this time of year, I start to see a lot of tennis players complaining of shoulder pain in my Physical Therapy clinic. In order to best treat shoulder pain in any athlete, it is most important to do a thorough physical examination and determine the cause of the injury. Most often in tennis players, the root cause is shoulder instability coupled with overuse of the dominant arm. The infrastructure of the shoulder joint is inherently unstable and joint biomechanics rely largely on the muscular components. When these muscles are weak or strained they are unable to properly stabilize the joint and injury occurs.
There are 2 groups of stabilizers that need to exhibit good strength and endurance for pain-free, functional shoulder kinematics. The first group is known as the rotator cuff muscles – a group of 4 muscles that work together to stabilize the main shoulder joint. These muscles are especially susceptible to injury since they pass through a narrow canal within the joint and can easily become pinched or ‘impinged’.
The second group of shoulder muscles is called the scapula stabilizers. These muscles govern the motion around the shoulder blade (scapula) and are often overlooked in training programs. One of the key muscles in this group is called serratus anterior and our exercise of the month is one of my favorite ways to strengthen it. I even love the name – Dynamic Hug!
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