[Update 9/11/13: I'm not the only one who has blogged about how great this stretch is for undoing tight shoulders and rendering surgery unnecessary. Here is the post about him coming across Dr. Kirsch, and here is a detailed explanation of his protocol that worked for him.]
At first I thought it was simply from laxity in the supraspinatus from injuring my shoulder and then years of sleeping on it. However, it seems like it's a little more complicated then that, or my self-diagnosis is completely wrong (nothing new in either case). There were definitely some instability issues in my neck, which I've fixed through prolotherapy and sleeping with a soft neck brace. However, there are still some issues, and they feel like they come from near the center of my back, like right between the shoulder blades.
Well, since hanging from a bar seems to help, I decided to investigate: 1) what shoulder issues does it treat, and 2) why does it treat said issues.
Here is the short answer, according to one website:
- Hanging from a bar helps with impingement syndrome and frozen shoulder.
- "This exercise does a marvelous job of stretching all of the ligaments, muscles, and tendons surrounding your shoulder joints, along with many of the soft tissues that cross your shoulder joints but that travel a good distance away from your shoulders, like your biceps tendons, triceps tendons, latissimus dorsi tendons, and even the tendons of your front chest muscles"
When you hang, you are bending the acromion and stretching the coracoacromial ligament (CA arch). Then, when you do the full side lift weight lifting, the RC tendon will become thicker, more robust and healthier. Most hardly ever use their rotator cuff muscles and the tendons become thin and fragile.
After remodelling your own CA arch, there will be more room beneath the arch for the rotator cuff, bursa, etc.
I've never heard about the coracoacromial ligament before, but it seems to be fairly important, at least to Dr. Kirsch:
The CA arch is responsible for most of our shoulder troubles. It presses on the subacromial structures (rotator cuff, bursa, biceps tendon) and when contracted due to time and disuse, produces degenerative damage in these structures. By hanging from an overhead bar or similar support; and then doing forward, side and extension dumbbell weight lifting (palms forward or down) you can restore the health of the rotator cuff tendon and muscles. Each time you stretch the CA arch by hanging, you are making more room for the RC. Over time, the deformity of the acromion will remodel (Wolff's law), and the coracoacromial ligament will stretch becoming more compliant.
Dr. Kirch actually has a book out on this, "Shoulder Pain? The Solution & Prevention, Revised & Expanded". I plan on buying it and giving it a look over, I don't think it's too long of a read.
I'm very, very interested to see how this plays out, if I actually do have shoulder impingement and if remodeling my CA arch will help out. So far so good, my shoulder is feeling markedly better, and I'm really, really surprised.