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Eric Cullinane Dec 1, 2019 12:00:00 PM 8 min read

Bulletproofing Coaches - Neck & Shoulder

A common misconception is that coaches and personal trainers live their lives without any musculoskeletal issues. Free from niggles or injuries and blissful in their pain-free existence! Watching a coach demonstrate a deep squat or a perfectly executed scapula push up gives the impression that they move so well that injuries must be uncommon for them. This, however, is not the case and coaches, given the nature of their active work, can present with frequent issues that require attention.
From working closely alongside the coaches at FFS, it has given me plenty of exposure to such issues. The fourth coach I would like to discuss in a series of monthly blogs post will be Conor. See my previous articles on Sinead's knee, Jamie's Hamstring, and Brian's Shoulder.
Assessing Aoife's Neck & Shoulder Issue
Aoife is a Personal Trainer, Olympic Weight Lifting Coach and along with Coach Sinead, runs the small group training for pregnancy at FFS. She is blessed with exceptional movement through years of high-level training and her form rarely breaks down, irrespective of the weight on the bar.
However, like all other highly tuned athletes, she is not without niggles/injuries and presented to me with:
Pain along the back of the neck, passing along the top of the shoulder. Pain with Jerk, Snatch movements (Olympic lifts), as the bar weight increased. Reported neck and chest muscles constantly felt tight.

Palpating the Upper Trapezius/Levator Scapalue muscles

Assessing Active Range of Motion (AROM) Shoulder / Strength

Assessing Scapulohumeral Rhythm/Asymmetry’s
Main Findings
The main findings were the following:
Tenderness palpating both the Trapezius muscle, Levator Scapalue muscles.Discomfort on vertical (overhead) pressing movements.Mild scapular dyskinesis noted (upwardly rotated shoulder blade in a rested position).
Exercise Programme

1. Lacrosse Ball Self Myofascial Release – Trapezius muscle
We are looking to desensitise the muscle tissue that was causing Aoife pain and discomfort. This was to be done strictly before every training session. Minimum 2 minutes massaging the ball into the muscle.

2. Straight Arm Band Retractions
Multiple exercises were prescribed to help Aoife improve control of her scapula (shoulder blade). The numerous muscles that attach to the scapula are responsible for the complex motions of the scapula, and any deviation from the norm can lead to shoulder niggles or injury. The retraction movement is driven from and isolated to the scapula, without any elbow flexion.
3 sets x 12 repetitions.

3. Prone External Rotations into Overhead Press
I felt Aoife needed to improve her strength and stability in end range external rotation and provide her an opportunity to achieve pain-free vertical pressing. This exercise catered from both of these aims, was commenced with a very light weight and progressed to 2.5kg.
3 sets x 12 repetitions.
Aoife's Rehab Plan
Gaining an understanding of the position of the shoulder blade/shoulder joint during the Olympic lifts was a key driver to Aoife’s exercise prescription. Increasing the accessory/rehabilitation work helped to reduce the muscle pain and overall discomfort levels. As heavy jerks and snatches were aggravating factors, I asked Aoife to reduce her weights for 3/4 weeks to coincide with her rehabilitation plan. As the symptoms started to improve, we added in progressive strengthening exercises. A return to pain free olympic lifting and competitive action was our ultimate goal.
Please note:
The above exercises were prescribed following a detailed assessment of Aoife's neck and shoulder issue but can provide benefits to those as part of an active warm-up or training session. However, they are not the solution to all problems. If you think you have a problem with your neck or shoulder, we advise you to see a Chartered Physiotherapist to get it checked out and given a tailored rehab programme for your specific issue.
Find out More
Want to book an appointment or learn more about FFS Physiotherapy? Click the link below or contact Eric at physio@ffs.ie
About the Author

Eric is firm believer that "Movement is a medicine for creating change in a persons physical, emotional and mental states" and is an expert in soft tissue techniques, passive and active release techniques and rehabilitation. He enjoys developing exercise programmes for people aiming to improve function, mobility and sports related performance. Eric is a registered member of the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) and a member of the Sports and Exercise Medicine special interest group.
Read more about Eric’s education and experience here
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If you need advice, a physiotherapy assessment or feel your team/business could learn more about workplace ergonomics, contact Eric @ physio@ffs.ie or visit www.ffs.ie/physiotherapy.

Eric Cullinane

Eric Cullinane is a Chartered Physiotherapist working with FFS Physiotherapy, a practice based on Leeson St Lower. Chartered Physiotherapists have specialist knowledge in the field of work-related injury management. If you need advice, a physiotherapy assessment or feel your team/business could learn more about workplace ergonomics, contact Eric at physio@ffs.ie or visit www.ffs.ie/physiotherapy.