I have been working out with weights about 3 times a week. I also do cardio 3 or 4 times a week. Lately, my neck and shoulder on the right side have become inflamed. I finally went to my doctor to have it checked out. He told me that my "posture muscles" are imbalanced due to muscle strain. He also told me that those muscles are not meant to be pushed past a certian point; meaning that I should never lift more weight above my shoulders than what feels comfortable. He said that they are not connected to the body in the same way that my other muscles are. My trainer has stepped up my weight program a bit so I'm sure that I am trying to lift more weight than I should for where I am strength wise. After three weeks of taking muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories, I still have pain. Now he recommends physical therapy. Can you please expand more on posture muscles and weight training?

I would agree that physical therapy is the place to start when you have any sort of persistent pain and inflammation in the neck and shoulders.

The shoulder is the most complicated joint in the body. It is made up of three bones: the scapula (shoulder blade), the humerus (upper arm bone), and the clavicle (collarbone). Muscles, tendons, and ligaments hold it all together. The collarbone is connected to the end of the shoulder blade and there is a fluid filled sac called the bursa that cushions and lubricates the shoulder area. Then, there is a group of tendons and muscles that make up what is called “the rotator cuff” that help keep the upper arm bone seated in the socket of the shoulder blade. If these muscles are not strong enough to stabilize the shoulder joint, and you lift heavy weights over your head, you will inflame or injure these muscles or your bursa very easily.

Many standard shoulder exercises focus on the external muscles of the shoulders such as the deltoid (the group of muscles which cover the top of your shoulder) and the trapezius (the group of muscles which begins at the base of your neck and extends down between your shoulder blades).

In any balanced exercise routine, one has to consider the interior muscles which function to stabilize the exterior musculature.

For instance, exercises that work on internal and external rotation of the shoulder joint will help strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff. Think of a back-handed tennis stroke but keep your elbow close to your body while using some resistance such as a cable unit or surgical tubing.

And, exercises that work on the exterior muscles such as the deltoid are best done by lifting weight straight out in front (front raise), directly to the side (lateral raise) or over your head (shoulder press). The trapezius muscles are best worked by performing a shrugging motion while holding hand weights (upper traps) or by pulling a cable or surgical tubing in a rowing motion squeezing your shoulder blades together (middle traps).

Training your body from the “inside out” is essential to a strong, balanced body.

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