We are doing a multi-part series on orthopedic problems for gamers, focusing on different regions of the body. We’ve made it to Part III! Today we’ll be discussing internal shoulder rotation.
For gamers and athletes alike, whatever your passion or your profession, it’s nearly a sure bet you are on your electronic devices almost more than you’re not. Whether conducting battles on the business front or crushing enemies in lane, your body suffers from repeat muscle stress and prolonged bouts of sitting.
We get it, and we want to make you aware of a couple of potential painful problems associated with all that screen time so you can do something about them if you already have them or prevent them if you don’t.
In this series we’ve already covered some common wrist and hand strains as we touched on gamer’s thumb and carpal tunnel syndrome, and we’ve begun to explore some chronic musculoskeletal pain incurred by poor posture and some tips to improve that. Today we’re going to continue what we started last week, and go further up our big ol’ kinetic chains to look at some common upper back pains that might accompany an unattended passion for gaming.
Internal Shoulder Rotation
If there’s one body issue that both digital and physical athletes have in common, it’s shoulder pains. More specifically, pains associated with internal shoulder rotation. Not sure if you have it? It’s pretty easy to check. Stand up real quick. Grab two pencils or something, holding one in each hand. Relax, let your hands fall to your side. Which way are the pencils pointing? If they aren’t pointing straight ahead and have any inward angle, you’re internally rotated.
Internal shoulder rotation happens when your shoulders are pulled forward and out of their proper position - it causes rotation of the humerus (the bone in your arm that connects your scapula with the two bones in your forearm, the radius and ulna), which incurs a chain reaction down your arm. That’s why your thumbs point towards each other!
Like all postural issues, an internal rotation is caused by a combination of tightness and relative weakness. In traditional athletes, this is often caused through overtraining of the muscles in front of you, and not enough focus on the ones behind you. I.e, folks aren’t training their rhomboids and the interscapular muscles as much as they are maxing out reps on their bench press. Your back and chest end up in a bit of a contest, and in most folks the chest is gonna win that battle.
In gamers, a lot of this relative weakness via lifting is mirrored from sitting slumped over a computer all day. The leaned over motion stretches out your upper back and causes your chest to tighten as you cave in, and that same relative tightness causes your shoulders to pull forward. When you are internally rotated, your shoulders are in a weak, vulnerable position just asking to get ganked by injury. If you’re already going to the gym, and you notice you’re internally rotated, you probably also have noticed a little discomfort when doing overhead presses, pulls, or dynamic movements. You should probably stop all that. Get yo’ self to rehab.
So how do we fix this? It’s easy. In addition to the ergonomic setups and posture tips we’ve covered in the previous weeks, we’re going to do some focused stretching on the trouble muscle groups that are most likely causing your rotation. Here are three stretches that have been helping us.Get a towel, cause we’re going to… not go to the beach.
- That’s right, stretching baybeeeeeeee okay so stand up and drape a towel over one shoulder. Maybe step one should be grab a towel?
- Okay, so you have a towel and you’re standing and it’s draped over your shoulder. Let the towel dangle down your back, all the way to your butt.
- Reach behind your back with the arm of the shoulder you’re stretching and grasp the towel with your palm facing out.
- Hold the other end of the towel with your other hand, palm facing in.
- Pull the towel forward with your front hand to feel a deep stretch in that back arm, and then repeat for the other shoulder. Hold it for as long as you can, but no longer than 90 seconds.
- Stand sideways, facing the door frame.
- Bend the arm of the shoulder you’re stretching to a 90-degree angle, keeping the other arm against your side.
- Place the palm of your hand on the wall.
- Push on the wall until you feel the stretch in your shoulder.
- This one comes in reps, so hold the tension for a couple counts of Mississippi (idk like six or something), then relax the arm to your side and repeat at least five times.
- Lay down a mat, your towel, or find a cushy part of your hardwood floor to lay on.
- Lying face down, reach your arms forward above your head and upward towards the ceiling.
- Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades towards your spine and downwards.
- Keep your thumbs pointing towards the ceiling and reach. You should feel this in your upper back and neck pretty immediately.
- I like to do this one in reps too. I do the alphabet, rest for a little “Next time won’t you sing with me,” and repeat five to ten times.
That’ll about do us for internal shoulder rotation this week. Our bodies are very intricate machines. A basic fault like poor posture has huge ramifications throughout our whole bodies. Next week we’ll continue looking at the impact that gaming on a computer might have on our necks and how we might address the damage being done. Stay tuned!