“In an active life is sown the seed of wisdom; but he who reflects not, never reaps; has no harvest from it, but carries the burden of age without the wages of experience; nor knows himself old, but from his infirmities”. Edward Young.
Good shoulder health is taken for granted for those have it, and bitterly missed by those who do not.
The human upper extremity is a multi-segmental construction of staggering complexity. From collar bone (clavicle) to wrist, its primary purpose is to enable the hand to be positioned anywhere in the surrounding space to thus manipulate objects in the immediate environment.
When people say they have “shoulder issues” they are most commonly referring to problems at the gleno-humeral joint; the ball and socket interface between the rounded head of the upper arm bone (Humerus), and a shallow concave portion of the shoulder blade (Glenoid Fossa of the Scapula). This tends to be the area where injury and trauma accumulate, and compensation breaks down.
Like a lot of folks, I picked up a number of seemingly independent shoulder injuries in the course of my youth; from having shoulders momentarily dislocated as a toddler whilst being swung round by my father, to injuries playing rugby and cricket. A couple of years ago, I damaged my left shoulder again performing a kettlebell bent press. This left me with a chronic biceps tendonitis both at the shoulder and the wrist that just was not settling. Although I could still manage almost all kettlebell and steel mace moves, I had pain and weakness manifest as failure of isometrically held elbow flexion as my nervous system literally switched off the biceps when the load was perceived by it as too great.
I tried everything to redress the issue at the tissue inflammation level, including acupuncture, massage and anti-inflammatory topicals, but nothing had a lasting effect. By chance whilst on vacation, I found a pair of wooden clubs in an antique store (I have subsequently found other sets; this is a great place to look for them and they are often erroneously marked up as bowling pins!) and later purchased a pair of Pahlavandles (plastic handles that screw onto plastic water bottles).
Pahlavandles are great for a number of reasons; firstly you can fine tune the weight by altering bottle size and how much water you fill bottles with; secondly, the fit all regular soft drink bottle screw threads; thirdly they are portable and easy to take with you for vacation workouts; fourth, they don’t hurt when you inevitably hit yourself on the head when you are learning Indian club swinging!
I hooked up with Chris from Circular Roots Training to get some online tuition which is essential; although I’d swung steel clubs and mace for years, Indian clubs, by virtue of their size, shape and weight are handled differently and with more subtlety and finesse.
Long story short; even after my first session training, I noticed a reduction in the symptoms that had plagued me for 18 months. After 2 weeks or club training every other day I was completely pain-free. That was over 6 months ago, and I’ve gone on to train some fairly advanced calisthenics moves, including “Skin the cat”, something that previously made me sweat just by watching it!
I now offer Indian club training as part of my PT service and frequently use it in the rehabilitation of shoulder injuries of my clinical patients.