Shoulder pain in moto riders…where’d that come from?

6 Aug

The shoulders are a tricky thing. Look around the superbike or MotoGP paddock and you’re sure to see a few guys with shoulder pain. Shoulders are without a doubt the most complicated joint in the human body. There are a few reasons for this.

First off, the glenohumeral joint (ball and socket) is an incredibly shallow joint. So it’s quite unstable. It’s like rolling a marble around on a tea-cup saucer.

Secondly, the only connection it actually has to anything remotely stable is where the clavicle attaches to the sternum (sternoclavicular joint).

Lastly, the scapula (shoulder blade) is essentially a floating bone, gliding along the back of the rib cage, behind held there by about 12 different muscles anchoring it down like ropes on a sailboat.

Now often, riders will have shoulder pain. But as I’ve pointed out, shoulder pain can be a lot of different things. Thankfully, it can often be remedied before things get really out of hand.

The glenohumeral joint has a few common injuries. These often have to do with the rotator cuff (RC) and the smooth operation of the aforementioned cuff. The most common injury is  RC impingement. This usually occurs where the supraspinatus muscles glides beneath the end of the clavicle and the space essentially gets closed off causing the muscle to be pinched when the arm is raised with any amount of force.

I’ll address how to clean that up here shortly.

When hard braking has to be done, the front of the shoulders get a lot of work while the back of the shoulders get neglected. Don’t forget about them when you’re training!

The next common injury is scapular pain. Now this pain usually isn’t an acute, immediate injury. Both scapular issues and RC impingement usually have to do with an imbalance of the scapular muscles.

See, on a bike, in the car or even at work, we spend so much time reaching forward, that the muscles in the back of our shoulders become stretched and inhibited, or shut down. When this happens, it starts to get sore. AND the proper balance in the ball-socket part of the shoulder gets out of balance and impingement occurs.

So how do you fix it?

The first step is to stop stretching the back of your shoulders with your arm across your chest. This only feels good because during the stretch the muscle receives some tension and is actually stimulated.

Stretch the chest to relieve the constant stretch on the rhomboids and pain in the shoulder blade.

So instead of stretching the back of the shoulder, try stretching the front of the shoulder (pecs) using a doorway stretch. Stand next to a door and place your elbow at shoulder height with your forearm going up the doorway. Step forward with that same leg until you feel a stretch in the chest.

To add to the stretch and get the most work out of the time, turn your head away from the arm to stretch the scalene muscle in the neck. Also try to rotate the shoulder back wards by trying to lift your hand off the rail.

Do this 3 times per day, 10-seconds per side, 3 sets per arm.

Now, how to strengthen it? Well unless you have a gym at your office or home, you probably won’t have any weights handy. But that’s okay! Simply use what you’ve got.

The first exercise is called “Stick Ups.” Some folks call them wall-slides, but I like stick up. Sounds a little more “on the edge.” Stand with your back to a wall and pull your arms back against the wall as if someone said “Stick ’em up!” Slide your arms up as high as you can keeping your elbows, wrists and hands against the wall. Then move them down, pulling your elbows as low as they’ll go. Aim for 20 reps, 3 times per day.

The second exercise is side planks. Side planks are famous for their ab-shredding capability, but they also do a heck of a job on the muscles of the shoulder. Start by lying on your side. Prop yourself up on your forearm and hold that position. If you’ve never done them before, start with 15-seconds per side and try to work up to 90-seconds. I guarantee you that guys like Jorge Lorenzo, Carlos Checa and Josh Hayes do side planks. They are a HUGE bang for your buck exercise.

Now this isn’t all that you can do, but when you’re limited on time and your shoulders or shoulder blades have pain, these are a surefire way to start moving in the right direction and get you back on the bike, dragging knees and pushing the limit! – TDF


One Response to “Shoulder pain in moto riders…where’d that come from?”


  1. The simplest things, for the BIGGEST improvements | Track Day Fitness - August 10, 2013

    […] or protracted. This is usually caused by tight chest muscles and weak shoulder muscles. And it can cause a few frustrating injuries for racers and weekend riders […]


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