Shoulder pain has a way of creeping up on you. While much of the attention is spent on larger muscles like core, legs, and arms, the muscles and highly mobile joints of the shoulders are just as important to mobility. Heavy lifting. Posture. Repetitive arm movements. Whatever it is, if it moves your arms and holds you upright, your shoulders are there to support you.
Unfortunately, all that work can wreak havoc on your shoulders. Even if you work out with good form, bad posture throughout the day can turn simple soreness into chronic shoulder pain.
Although stretching can help, another way to relieve shoulder pain is to address the issue directly through movement. Here are a few essential massage ball exercises for your shoulders, organized by muscle group.
1. Infraspinatus and Teres Minor: We tend to think of shoulders as one complete unit, but the shoulder actually has about eight muscles attaching to the scapulae, humerus, and clavicle.
They're also supported by several other muscles neighboring them in your chest and back. Among these muscles are the infraspinatus and teres minor, two of the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff. Both muscles are external rotators at the head of the humerus at the shoulder joint, working to stabilize the humerus.
Where to find them: Feel along your back, right where the arm connects to your shoulder joint. The infraspinatus is a larger muscle right behind and above the back of the armpit, while the teres minor is a smaller muscle right next to it.
How to Aid in Relaxation
The easiest way to access this muscle with a massage ball is by lying on your side, with your arm lifted and your elbow at a 90-degree angle. Place the massage ball in the area just outside your shoulder blade and directly behind the armpit, below the shoulder joint itself.
Once you've found the tight spot, you can start moving the massage ball around to aid in relaxing the muscle. If the muscles are extremely tight, you may experience some discomfort. If you experience extreme or significant pain, immediately stop what you are doing and consult a licensed medical professional.
2. Trapezius Along with the deltoids, latisimuss dorsi, rhomboids, and levator scapula, the trapezius muscle is one of the widest muscles in your back. It extends from the base of your head (around the hairline) across your shoulders and down your spine toward the bottom of your ribcage. It's divided into three segments: the upper fibers, the middle fibers/middle trapezius, and the lower fibers/lower trapezius.
This muscle acts as both a movement muscle and a posture stabilizer. You use your traps when you shrug your shoulders, keeping your shoulder blades down your back, and turning your neck from side to side. Unfortunately, this is also a muscle that frequently suffers the consequences of poor posture, as many office workers and frequent drivers know. If your shoulder girdle is constantly pulled up or your shoulders are always slumped forward (or both) the traps end up misaligned and chronically tight.
How to Aid in Relaxation There are a couple of ways to hit this muscle depending on where you want to target the relaxation, but the easiest way to aid in relaxing the muscles without excess pressure is by lying down. This will allow you to help loosen the traps without simultaneously relying on them to keep you upright.
Place the massage ball around the tight area and lay down. This could be the base of the neck, along your spine, or anywhere in between (remember, the traps are a large muscle). A common trigger point for the traps is the neck, so lay down with your massage ball against the tense muscles. Depending on how tight the muscle is or where you have the ball, this pressure alone may be enough to create a lot of sensation.
If you feel alright to continue, you can start working your massage ball around the tight muscle. Don't forget to work the whole traps--remember, if you carry tension in one area, you may overcompensate in another without realizing. If you experience pain, immediately stop what you are doing and consult a licensed medical professional.
3. Latisimuss Dorsi The latisimuss dorsi is one of the largest muscles in the back, located in the middle of the back and partially covered by the trapezius muscle. Because of its location, many people don't associate it with shoulder pain, but given its critical support structure of shoulder and arm movement, it should be one of your biggest concerns.
When your lats are tight, your shoulders have a hard time rotating outward. This means your shoulders will stay in excessive internal rotation (slumped forward), putting all the other muscles of the shoulder out of alignment.
How to Aid in Relaxation The lats originate along the seventh thoracic vertebrae (T7) and extend to the insertion point of the humerus, covering the trapezius and controlling the movement of the scapulae. In plain English, it's a big muscle.
Like the infraspinatus and teres minor, the best way to find your lats is by lying down on your back, with your massage ball on or near your trigger point. Relax your muscles as much as you can. If your lats are extremely tight, you may need to work for a while to release all the tension. Keep in mind that this is a big muscle, so if one part is tense, you'll probably have tension along the rest of the muscle.
Once you've worked out the primary trigger points, make sure to work outward along your lats to release residual tension. As always, If you experience pain, immediately stop what you are doing and consult a licensed medical professional.
The Smarter Way to Save Your Shoulders Your shoulders work hard to support you. Don't you think it's time to show them the same level of care and support? Unfortunately, if you're carrying a lot of tension in your shoulders, a massage ball alone may not be enough to aid in the relaxation of your muscles. Our KT Recovery Ice/Heat Massage Ball goes one step further with gel inserts to allow heat or ice therapies on top of your massage.
Better still, our ball was designed in partnership with chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists for a versatile, functional at-home pain management solution.
Make sure to visit our shop to find a multitude of other pain management and recovery products. You'll find everything you need for comprehensive assistance with pain relief, stronger performance, and outstanding training results.