“Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
Isaiah 46.4 (NIV)
I hurt my right shoulder about nine months ago. Actually, I injured my pectoral muscle, connecting right under my armpit area, which affected my shoulder movement and strength, causing pain when I worked out. So for nine months I haven’t been able to lift as heavy with my right shoulder because of my injury. Whenever I do a shoulder work out, like a dumbbell shoulder press, I use weights about five or even ten pounds lighter.
But the thing about shoulders is that they are used in almost every other body workout as secondary muscles. For example, when I work my chest, doing bench press, I use my shoulders. When I work my back, doing pull-ups, I use my shoulders. When I do deadlifts, working my low back and hamstrings, I use my shoulders. Finally, when I do most bicep and tricep exercises, my shoulders are usually engaged.
Because of the pain in my right shoulder, my left shoulder began to compensate when I would do an exercise that activated both shoulders, like the bench press and pull-ups. An interesting thing began to happen. My left shoulder became stronger than my right. I started seeing more cuts and muscle striation in my left shoulder. However, just recently my left shoulder has begun to feel slight pain and limited range of movement too.
What happened? My left shoulder compensated so much for my right shoulder’s pain due to a pectoral injury underneath the shoulder that it too began to strain. Whenever I would do exercises that activated both shoulders, my left would take up the slack for the right.
What’s the answer? A game plan from a physical therapist with muscle movements so small that it almost seems laughable. I found out my true problem too. I have muscle imbalance. My back (mainly my mid and lower lower trapezius or traps) are too weak compared to my front (mainly pectoral muscles), which caused tightening and pulling of the pec muscles while doing compound exercises (working multiple muscles at once). As funny at it sounds, my left shoulder pain was caused by my right shoulder pain which was caused by my right pec injury which was caused by weakness in my back, mainly my traps.
What’s my point? Many times we have issues in our lives due to imbalance we don’t know about. I had shoulder pain that was actually rooted in weakness of my back, which caused an injury in my pectoral muscle. My homework for physical therapy is to strengthen my mid and lower traps and stretch my pecs. There is nothing I do with my shoulders except continue to work them without hurting them.
Sometimes the pain we feel emotionally is really not caused by the area that’s hurting us at the moment. It may be a weakness in one area that has injured another and has limited something totally different! If we are dealing with an issue, we need to find the deep-seeded source. Only addressing the signifier does nothing to alleviate the culprit. For example, a marital problem could actually be caused by something other than our spouse! We need to let the Holy Spirit, and any other resources God brings our way (books, counselors, pastors, prayer, etc.) to help us discover the true culprit for our symptoms.
“He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.”
Psalm 147.3 (NIV)
We may have focused so much on our strengths, ignoring our weaknesses, that our strengths are starting to hurt us because they are proportionally out of control. We must seek healing, balance and wholeness. The Holy Spirit can guide us into our healing, but we need to be willing to humble ourselves, admit our pain and do the seemingly little exercises that will promote total balance. Further, we may have to realize that the issue we keep praying about is really rooted to another issue entirely.
“For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.”
Isaiah 41.13 (NIV)