With the MLB Post-Season in full swing and high schoolers playing fall ball, many players are finding themselves tired, sore and with a painful shoulder. Players need to do more than ice and stretch after an outing or practice, but this commonly prescribed recovery method is used at all levels of play. Another method of recovery or “flushing the lactic acid” commonly used in baseball is running the poles, but unfortunately it doesn’t work very well either. In reality, neither of these methods are doing what they are promised to do.
So, what does work? I get asked all the time by baseball players of all levels for exercises to help improve their recovery and decrease their shoulder pain. Although there are a variety of effective exercises I could prescribe depending on the individual, there is one exercise which I consider to be the biggest “bang for your buck”. The best part about this exercise is it requires nothing more than a standard Lacrosse ball.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Lie on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
2. Place the lacrosse ball in-between the shoulder blade and the spine of the problematic shoulder.
3. Starting with the arm lowered by the hip, slowly lift the arm to an overhead position (Arm Flexion).
4. Keep going back and forth with the arm approximately 10 times before slightly moving the lacrosse ball to a different area of the upper back.
5. Work several areas, starting toward the top of the shoulder blade and working your way down. Typically, our players will work 3-5 different areas.
Note: Be sure to avoid placing the ball directly under the shoulder blade or spine.
By pinning the muscles down in the upper back and moving through a large range of motion with the arm, the pinned area will be forced to move and blood flow will return to a muscle that was previously stagnate, and stagnation decreases our ability to recover. Also, if this muscle isn’t working very well due to an imbalanced shoulder, the stimulation of the lacrosse ball will help better activate the muscle due to a triggering of the nervous system. This area will be tender to pressure for most people and that’s perfectly normal.
Complete this exercise every day for 3 to 5 minutes. It can be performed by itself or in conjunction with other recovery methods like acupuncture, massage therapy or cupping. Done consistently and correctly, the results will be impressive. I have seen many players feeling better in as little as 10 days of performing this simple protocol and it sure beats the alternative of constant, debilitating pain and greatly lowers the risk of reconstructive surgery. Don’t wait until your performance is affected. Becoming more proactive with the shoulder now can save you time, money and a massive amount of pain in the future.