Barely a week goes by without a Nordic walker telling me how much their shoulders have improved since Nordic walking. A painful or immobile shoulder can make it hard to do even basic tasks like reaching up to get something off a top shelf, doing zips or bra straps up behind your back, or sleeping on your side.
There are many reasons for shoulder pain and Nordic walking isn’t a cure. But it does seem to have a big impact for many so I thought I would share Michael’s story, taken from my book, Let’s Walk Nordic.
“I picked up a bilateral rotator cuff injury about 18 months ago which was diagnosed as impingement syndrome and had extensive treatment with a chiropractor and physio which seemed to make it worse. My right shoulder then recovered on its own, but my left shoulder didn’t. Then I started Nordic walking and initially, my shoulder would be tight and painful, especially during warm up and cool down.
As the months went by, I kept hearing about keeping the shoulders low, the torso twist and pushing through the hand strap and I found myself concentrating on these three things. Initially, I didn’t really notice much of a difference, but I did notice my shoulder gradually started to feel a bit looser, although it was still tight and painful at times. I continued to concentrate on keeping shoulders down and relaxed and the torso twist.
Then I had some further physio, this time from a more experienced physio who had dealt with a lot of shoulder injuries and he was fascinated by the Nordic walking. He could see how Nordic walking would be beneficial and gave me exercises which targeted not my bad shoulder as such, but my shoulder girdle and core muscles. I’ve since been discharged from the physio as my shoulder has improved massively.
This is what I’ve noticed:-
– As my shoulder became looser, I’m pushing back through the hand straps more efficiently and my shoulder movement has become more fluid.
– As my torso twist has improved, my shoulder has also released and I’m standing taller and less rounded.
– At the cool down stretches, I can now get the poles behind my head and onto the back of my shoulders – I really couldn’t do this in January and although I could raise my arm above my head, it was painful – now it’s pain free.
– I can also do the exercise with the poles vertically down the back. Previously, my left shoulder was too tight to pull down or up without pain and I had trouble reaching the poles!”
Even if you have a sore shoulder or the common rotator cuff injury, the forwards-backwards movement of Nordic walking seems to be manageable for most people enabling them to generate power without triggering discomfort. The warm-up exercises and post walk stretches also help and I will be talking about these in Arms (Part 3).