Are you suffering from shoulder pain while you're doing planks? This video is perfect for you. So my name is Dr. Molly, and I'm with Your Goals Physical Therapy, I have recently had a few people come in because they were having pain doing planks. And of course their goal wasn't necessarily to do planks just for an everyday workout, just for a little bit. It's so that they can train to run. In one case, somebody else is trying to power lift and so being able to do a plank with their sport is very important to them. It helps train everything in your upper body and your torso to stay nice and stiff so that you can either run or lift the weights that you wanna lift. Having their shoulders bother them was freaking them out and was very disappointing. It really felt like it was a huge setback for them. They came in asking for any kind of tip or anything that I could give them to do so that their shoulder would stop hurting during what they think of as a basic exercise.
Let's talk about a couple of things that I saw. So one when they were, I'm gonna just demonstrate actually, so one person was shrugging and one person, you could see their shoulder blades really coming out from the middle of their back. So I'm gonna show you what I mean by that.
One of my clients came in and he was like this, and the other one was just sagged down so you really see those shoulder blades popping up. Now each one had their own problem.
The one that was shrugging said that it was like a dull ache inside the joint. It just lasted for a really long time afterwards and it was just really, really uncomfortable for the rest of their workout. The one that was sagging in their shoulder blade had no pain while they were doing it, but then they were miserable for two days afterwards. Because the muscles between their shoulder blades had spasm so badly that it was just very uncomfortable. They were trying to rub it out with the corners of the wall and it was brutal.
Both cases, they were strong people, and for some reason, just doing the plank was bothering their shoulders. Now first when you're doing the plank, and it doesn't matter if you're on your hands or on your elbows the goal is to really keep your shoulders set down, so away from your ears down towards your feet, you wanna point them away from your head, and you don't wanna be hanging. You wanna actually be kind of the ground away with your arms, keeping everything nice and steady.
The great thing about planks, which is why they translate so well for people who wanna power lift, people who wanna run, doing anything overhead lifting, and boxing. Planks transition very well to all of those sports. It's a great exercise, but what happens if for you something in your shoulder is not strong enough to keep you stable.
The cause could be from something inside your shoulder joint. It could be your upper back muscles. There could be something going on with your serratus anterior, which is the muscle that helps you when you're punching. Any imbalance in those things could be contributing to that either the sag or the shrug while you're doing the plank.
How do you fix that? Well, I would suggest altering your upper body strengthening. So in some cases, people get very habitual with the exercises that they are doing, and that causes your muscles to, I don't wanna say, “get lazy”, but they get used to what you're asking 'em to do. They don't have to stabilize in different ways. And so if you are having problems with your plank and your shoulder, if are already doing upper back work, and you're already doing good shoulder work, then maybe you just need to change up the variety of exercises that you're doing.
You may need to stretch. Nobody ever thinks about stretching their shoulders and really stretching could help improve the balance and the muscle structures between your shoulder and your upper back.
Now let's say that you don't notice any shrugging while you do a plank. You don't notice that you're getting the winging in your back. You're not just sagging down. You are trying to keep a good position and you can't tell that either one of those are a problem that you're still having shoulder pain.
So what do you, what do you do then? That's what movement specials help with. I help people all day try to figure out what it is about them in that particular movement that is causing the problem, cuz it could be something minor that is really hard to see if you're the one doing the exercise.
I mean, we've all tried a new exercise and it's really difficult to tell if you have these exact form right. You need somebody else to give you that feedback. Or at the very least you need a mirror. But if you're looking at small movements, that mirror is not very helpful. That's what I do. I help people figure out what the root cause of the problem is. Why it is that their shoulder is bothering them by watching them move, by doing some hand on manual techniques, stretching, strengthening, to find out exactly which tissue it is that is not doing enough work to support the movement that they're trying to do.
Again, it's one thing to say I'm just doing general exercises and planks bother me. I'm just not gonna do them, but depending on the sport or what you're trying to do, planks, could be very important.
I would say it's very important for most people to be able to do a plank, cuz it helps us do our everyday activities. It is great for women to be doing planks because it's an upper body weight bearing exercise, which helps make sure that we keep our bone density. It's very important if you're in any kind of contact sport because planks directly relate to keeping your trunk stable against forces. The same thing if you're trying to lift heavy weights. So instead of being frustrated and trying to figure out which modification is gonna work, cuz obviously that would work as well.
If you can maintain good form in a modified position, then that's where you should start and then build your way up. But if that's not the problem, if no matter where you are doing this plank, you're still having this trouble then finding somebody that would be able to help you overcome that would be ideal.
You don't have to think that just because the plank hurts your shoulder, maybe it's just the plank that's really bothering you, but you notice that your shoulder bothers you in other places. You don't have to think automatically that you need a cortisone shot or that you need surgery because that's just not true. Even if there is something going on in the shoulder joint, there are so many things that you can do before even considering having any kind of surgery or cortisone injection that could completely resolve your issue and your pain. Getting you back to doing everything that you wanted to do, pain free at the level that you want.
I hope that you're having a great day and keep trying those planks. Bye.
WE HELP ACTIVE ADULTS OVERCOME THEIR ACHES AND PAINS TO GET THEM BACK TO THEIR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES WITHOUT MEDICATION, INJECTIONS OR SURGERIES.
Dr. Molly McDonald