Why Do Volleyball Players Have Back and Shoulder Pain? - Indianapolis Fitness And Sports Training
Physical Therapy

Why Do Volleyball Players Have Back and Shoulder Pain?

written by Mike Robertson

If you’re a volleyball player (or your daughter plays volleyball), this might sound familiar…

“My back hurts.”

“My shoulder hurts.”

The fact of the matter is, volleyball players are rarely equipped to take on the physical demands of their sport.

Hours a week in the gym jumping, landing, cutting, serving, and swinging takes a toll on a body, when the physical foundation necessary to withstand that level of work isn’t there.

When this situation plays out, we get symptoms, and sometimes those symptoms become injuries.

Why does my back hurt?

Breaking this down in simple terms, think about the abs and the back as opposing pieces of a see saw.

If the back is hyperextended then they become dominant (the down side of the see saw) and the abs are left helpless and weak (the side of the see saw stuck in the air).

Now if you walk around in that position (like all volleyball players do), and you play in that position (like all volleyball players do), then we get back pain.

When the spine is hyperextended, the vertebrae opens up in the front and pinch down in the back. This pinching down occurs on the disc resting between vertebrae.

On top of that, when the back is stuck in hyperextension, the muscles in the back are ON 24 hours a day and the abs are OFF…or at least not in an optimal position to be strong.

Try flexing your bicep for a minute straight. If that wasn’t enough, try flexing it for 5 minutes.

Now, imagine a muscle not being able to relax all day or night. This muscle becomes upset and irritated.

Now we have a stiff and sore back on top of potential disc issues in the spine.

How do I fix my back pain?
Or keep it from happening altogether?

Pain is never a simple answer but from a training perspective, restoring balance back to the abs and back muscles will reduce back tension and allow the abs to be in a strong position to help support our hips and trunk and shoulders.

The spine rotates best when in a neutral position, and low back hyperextension is not a neutral position.

Hyperextension robs the body’s ability to rotate, so we end up forcing it and/or extending even more.

To help fix this, here are a couple ab exercises that help reduce low back hyperextension, restore balance back to the abs and back, reduce tension in the back and strengthen the abs ability to provide trunk rotation when swinging.

Why does my shoulder hurt?

Shoulders can be as tricky, and pinpointing exactly why it hurts can be risky because there are a lot of factors involved.

At the core of those factors though, is the core (pun intended!).

As we mentioned above, hyperextension of the spine robs the body of rotation, and the shoulder is not immune to this.

Spine position determines rib position, rib position impacts shoulder position and shoulder blade position impacts shoulder position.

When a shoulder is in a less than optimal position, and hundreds or thousands of swings are performed, we get shoulder pain.

Less rotation is available in the joint so we end up bumping into the joint when finishing our swing, or straining a muscle or tendon because this less than optimal position of the shoulder joint puts too much stress on it.

How do I fix my shoulder pain?
Or keep it from happening?

The answer is similar to the back pain solution.

If the hyperextension of the spine is the beginning point for putting the shoulder in a bad position, then we must start by addressing the position of the spine and get it back to neutral.

This also puts our abs in position to be stronger just like in the back pain example.

Now, my abs can control the spine hyperextension which puts the rib cage in a good position, which puts the shoulder blade in a good position, which puts the shoulder in a good position.

Here is an example of how we might make a back pain ab exercise into a shoulder ab exercise…


It all comes back to the abs.

But, training abs without taking into account body position will get a volleyball player nowhere, except maybe the training room to get treatment!

Get the back and hips in the right position, train the abs there, and then add some shoulder work on top.

If you follow this simple approach, you’ll not only reduce shoulder and back pain, but you’re training to improve performance at the same time!

P.S. – If you’re in the Fishers/Indianapolis/Carmel area and want to improve your vertical jump, please check out our Vertical Jump camp here at IFAST in July!

Mike Robertson

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