The Delicate Joint – Part Two
December 02, 2005
Part One | Part Two
By: Jean Johnson for Shoulder1
In Beth Beggs’ case it was the rotator cuff, a group of muscles and tendons that not only hold the loose joint in place but also allow us to lift our arms overhead. One thing Begg’s trainer said was that she was right to attend to the problem as soon as she did. “He told me that people who ignore it and hope it goes away are just setting themselves up for more worries and even a trip to the orthopedist.”
“I can’t remember all the stuff he had me do, but there were two exercises that seemed to be the mainstay. Both of them took lying on one of those workout benches, some light weights and, believe it or not, a sock filled with dry beans,” Beggs said. “The first one didn’t use the sock, just a hand weight. He had me lie on my side and reach my top arm out perpendicular with however much weight I could hold. Then I’d slowly—and he was big on that—very slowly move the arm up and down as far as I could go in either direction. I think it was twelve reps with a rest and three sets all together. And you had to do both arms even though it was just the one shoulder. Something about keeping the musculature balanced or something.”
| These exercises are designed for people to do at home with nothing more that an elastic band and a chair with arms:|
For basic strengthening, attach an elastic band to a doorknob and gently pull the elastic tubing toward your body. Hold for a count of 5. Repeat 5 times with each arm. Do twice a day.
To tone shoulder muscles without straining the joint, try wall push-ups. Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall and your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly perform a push-up and hold for a count of 5. Repeat 5 times. Do twice a day.
Shoulder press-ups work differ muscles than wall push-ups. Sit upright on a chair with armrests; your feet should be touching the floor. Use your arms to slowly rise off the chair. Hold for a count of 5. Repeat 5 times. Do twice a day.
Great Beth, but it’s the beans in the sock thing that we want to hear about. “Oh yeah. Well, the reason you use the sock is to prop your arm bone up so it’s at a right angle to your shoulder joint,” Beggs said as she lay down on the floor to demonstrate. “See this one works without the bench because your arm doesn’t need to go below your body.”
She’s on her side and wedges the padded sock midway under her upper arm and her rib cage. “See how that makes for a perfect right angle? The beans give and it drapes across your body so that it’s like a molded fit.” She picks up her hand weight. “Now it’s just a matter of keeping the elbow still and rotating the arm back and forth very slowly as far as you can in both directions.” She raises her arm almost straight up and then lowers it clear down in front of her belly. “You do sets of these just like the other one, and the idea is to work up so you can use heavier weights and do more reps. It’s a slow process, and you have to be sure not to strain since that will just make things worse and set you back.”
How is Begg’s shoulder today? “Great. I hoe in my garden and ski and feel no pain. But I’m more careful than I used to be,” she said. “I’m back now to a full complement of exercises and can even do pushups that do strain the shoulder joint some, but I watch it and tend to be much more aware that my body has its limits. I’m just glad I got the lesson when I was young enough to rebound.”
The delicate joint. That’s what Beggs found out her shoulder is. And that’s our understanding too. For more tips on how to keep your shoulder joint in good condition, see our list of four exercises recommended by the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons.
Last updated: 02-Dec-05