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Throwing Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain is a common complaint among baseball players, especially pitchers. Pain experienced during the throwing motion results in the inability to throw with velocity, causing what is commonly referred to as “dead arm” syndrome. The cause of pain is most often injury to the soft-tissue structures of the shoulder joint. More recently we are starting to realize that movement dysfunctions can also cause or be a result of shoulder pain as changed throwing mechanics puts negative stresses on shoulder tissues. Associated with this pain, altered mechanics of throwing are often observed. The athlete dysfunctionally moves, trying to accomplish the task of throwing hard. In fact, Kinetic Integrations (KI) believes that our central nervous system (movement regulating system) does not care how to accomplish a task such as pitching, it just gets the job done as best as possible even if it means that it’s methods are dysfunctional. Remember the day you sprained your ankle for the first time? You were limping for a few days weren’t you? Well, this limping gait is actually a dysfunctional form of walking. The same thing happens with our shoulder when experiencing pain, you change the way you throw if that is the task at hand.

The 4 Phases Of Throwing

To understand pain in the throwing shoulder, we need to understand and appreciate both the throwing mechanism and the anatomy of the shoulder joint. The act of throwing is often divided into 4 phases: wind up, cocking, acceleration, and deceleration, or also called follow-through. The unique anatomy of the shoulder joint allows a person to generate tremendous velocity while throwing. I remember my days in professional baseball when working for the Kansas City Royals, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles. Observantly I was always sitting next to the pitching coaches as through their experiences and keen observations they would pick up even small changes of the pitching mechanics, often before the pitcher would complain of pain. Indeed, often movement dysfunctions would occur before medical care was requested. This phenomenon laid the foundations of KI as movement dysfunctions not only occur with pain but also when and injury slowly creeps up on us.


The Anatomy

The shoulder, like the hip, is a ball-and-socket joint. However, unlike the hip where the ball fits tightly into the socket and is very stable, the shoulder ball (humeral head) fits loosely in its socket (glenoid) and is very much unrestricted, much like a golf ball sitting on a tee. Through the wh