I just met a very fit CrossFit athlete. She was no different than a lot of the other CrossFit athletes I have met – she talked about her technique on various lifts, her chances of making regionals next year and the fact that she returned to the box ONE DAY AFTER WRIST SURGERY. Like I said, she is no different than most CrossFit athletes.
The reason she came to see me was because of some elbow and shoulder pain that has been plaguing her for the last year or so. She has seen several conservative healthcare practitioners including a chiro, a sport’s acupuncturist and one orthopod but STILL has the same nagging pain in the elbow and shoulder that is preventing her from sleeping, driving and dominating her front squats and snatches like she used to. It’s that last one, not being able to perform front squats and snatches, that really bothers her and she has invested loads of time, money and some blood to fix the problem but alas, it still lingers…
This athlete is very similar to many of the women you find in CrossFit boxes around the country. She is very passionate about her sport, very muscular and has very limited mobility in multiple joints due to tight muscles. This is what I actually want to talk about today not only because I find it interesting but because I have had it happen to myself on several occasions when I decided to neglect my mobility training…like MOST CROSSFIT ATHLETES. Yes, I’m looking at YOU!
When I was lifting regularly and heavily many moons ago at a local CrossFit box, I found at different times, my left hand and both shoulders in debilitating pain that kept me from doing any movement that required the front rack position (cleans, clean and jerks, front squats, etc) or loaded shoulder position like a snatch or overhead squat. What I discovered was that both my shoulders developed tightness in the posterior capsule. Once I stretched that out, life improved dramatically. I was able to lift comfortably and more importantly, safely overhead. That nagging and super painful hand pain I was dealing with also magically disappeared. So what changed?
By Improving my shoulder mobility via posterior capsule stretching, I completely changed my arthrokinematics (joint movement). Once I had full mobility through the shoulders, it meant that both my elbows and wrists could go where they needed to be. Each joint moved appropriately and in turn I stopped hurting.
It is easy to think that these painful joints are experiencing some form of “tendonitis.” My female CrossFit Athlete had received cortisone injections for that very diagnosis. The only problem was, it didn’t work because she didn’t have tendonitis, she had a tight left shoulder.
What to do? All good CrossFit coaches who are worth their salt are aware of how important mobility is. However, the stretches I show patients are usually very different from the type shown in boxes. If you are dealing with shoulder, elbow or wrist pain, starting with a “sleeper stretch” is a great way to see if a tight posterior capsule is causing your symptoms. It is easy to find this stretch on my Facebook page or my Youtube channel.
UPDATE: After stretching regularly for just one day, my female CrossFit athlete reported back that she was able to work out PAIN FREE for the first time in months…because of just one stretch. It doesn’t have to be complicated just effective. If you have pain that is preventing you from enjoying life, call my office 479-268-6040 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.