Why Do I Keep Injuring My Shoulders?

You are pumped and excited.  You have been doing this pole thing for a while. The moves and tricks are progressing and you are feeling great about your pole journey. One day during class, you feel a slight pull on your shoulder...just one shoulder because let’s be honest how many of us are adamant about practicing things on both the right and left side. You feel that pull and think ‘oh it’s nothing’ and continue with the class. The next morning you wake up and it is still there. Not a sharp pain but  a dull sensation that lets you know something is going on. Two days later you are back in your favorite pole class, you do one warm up spin and that dull pain turns into a sharp screaming pain. How many of us have been here? It is a pole tale old as time of the infamous One Armed Shoulder Injury.

Pole dancers might be one of the most stubborn athletes around when it comes to sitting your behind  down and resting! I get it, pole is amazing, but your longevity in the sport will be short lived if you do not use your body wisely.  Not to get too sciency on you but the shoulder has about 16 muscles that are attached to it and 4 major muscles that make up your rotator cuff.  Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Subscapularis and Teres Minor. Together these muscles encompass and stabilize the glenohumeral joint. This joint, like your hip joint, is a ball and socket but compared to the hip it is very shallow and not as stable.  The rotator cuff muscles are not that large and not the biggest fans of doing load bearing excessive work that has you suspended in the air or doing repetitive movements on a stationary metal pole with no give. Most pole injuries come from overuse, not properly stretching, lack of strength and coming out of pole moves incorrectly.

SO HOW TO FIX IT?

Well, there is really no easy fix but these tips could be helpful!  

1. CHECK YOUR POSTURE BOTH IN AND OUT OF CLASS.

Poor posture can wreck havoc on your body. Try this test while sitting in a chair.  Sit up nice and tall, abs engaged, shoulder blades down with great posture  and raise your arms over your head. Notice the range of motion you have in your shoulders.  Now slouch down like you have been typing on a computer for hours and try to lift your arms over your head. You will notice how much harder it is to lift your arms and when you do, chances are your shoulders go into your ears and and the range of motion is significantly less.  Imagine poling with bad posture. You could potentially be setting yourself up for unwanted injuries. Try setting an alarm on your phone every few hours to do a posture check. Plant your feet flat on the floor, Tuck in your abs, don’t let that booty stick out, pull your shoulders out of your ears, take a few deep breaths, and relax your jaw. Or just enroll in finishing school! Eventually good posture will become second nature to you.

2.  USE THE LARGER MUSCLES.

Lats and Traps!  Your Latissimus Dorsi and Trapezius are huge muscles that take up about 70% of your back.  Your Lats start under your armpit and expand all the way down your back to your hips and sacrum. If you have been poling for a while and using these muscles they will get rather large. They are the “wings” you see on swimmers and body builders. I constantly tell my students to pull down with their Lats or pull down your bra fat. We all have it.  When you are wearing a sports bra or regular bra and you have the back fat that sticks out over the back of your bra. That is the top attachment of your Lats! This muscle enjoys pulling down or the scientific phrase, Adducting your shoulders! They also play a large role in affecting your trunk and spine, but I will save that for another blog! The Trapezius is that muscle you use for a “Shoulder Mount” Or “Trap Mount” The Traps begin at your the nape of the neck right above your hairline, extend out to your shoulders and end down around your 12th and last ribs.  This muscle is also very large and can take more load than the smaller surrounding muscles. It is practically impossible to just engage these two muscles but making a conscious effort to use them will help stabilize your shoulder and prevent injuries.

3. IT WON’T HURT TO CROSS TRAIN.

I am a huge believer in cross training mainly to keep the body balanced and proportional.  Pole dancing tends to be very one sided which in turn can cause your body to become asymmetrical and slowly cause breakdown and injuries over time.  Weight lifting, HIIT, Barre, Pilates or Yoga will benefit you and help maintain equal strength on both sides of your body. Cross training can help improve your range of motion and flexibility which will enhance your performance quality and endurance in the long run.

4.  BE MINDFUL GETTING OUT OF POLE MOVES.   

With the same caution you use getting into moves, use it getting out of moves too! A lot of injuries happens when polers are so excited they got into a trick that all form goes out the door getting out of the trick. They thud back to the floor like a sack of potatoes and all the technique your teachers yells to you about becomes irrelevant and you end up hurting yourself!  Challenge yourself next time you are in class doing a freestyle to move as slowly and intricately as you can transitioning from one move to the next. You will be amazed at how difficult it is to control and move your body around at a snails pace.

5.  REST, MASSAGE, ACUPUNCTURE…WHATEVER FLOATS YOUR BOAT.

Friends. Don’t be afraid to rest and Treat Yo Self! I love to rest more than I love to train, but that’s just me!  Remember It takes 24 hours for a muscle to grow and recover, so you can’t work the same muscle two days in a row! You think you are killin’ the pole game by training every day and maybe at first you will be but your body will let you know when it needs a break! Your brain might get FOMO that you are missing out on class and wont be able to learn that one move, but your body will thank you for resting.  Massage, acupuncture, and any other forms of body work will help relax muscle tissue, improve joint space and most importantly get blood moving which enhances the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to cells and and help remove and flush out waste and toxins from the body!

Lets be real, no one likes to be injured. If not treated and cared for, several different injuries can arise. A pull, strain, tear, an impingement, tendonitis, arthritis,  and even a shoulder dislocation can happen from pole. Before jumping shoulders first into a move, ask yourself a few question and be honest with yourself! Am I strong enough to try this move? Do I feel comfortable doing this move? You know your body better than anyone so listen to it and go with your gut!


Pole Nerd, Anatomy Nerd, Acupuncture Nerd…

Dalijah A Franklin

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