Recently I have been treating my shoulder patients as if they are in elementary school. It sounds ridiculous, I know. But what if taking patients with musculoskeletal shoulder pain, and having them hang from a pull up bar or school playground monkey bars, could relieve shoulder pain?
According to board certified orthopedic surgeon John M Kirsch, M.D., hanging from a bar for up to 30 seconds, 3 times per day, can fix up to 99% of shoulder pain. He outlines his protocol in the 4th edition of his book: “Shoulder Pain? The Solution and Prevention”. Dr. Kirsch discovered this technique in the 1980’s when he himself had bilateral shoulder pain and was recommended for surgery. He claims his “intuition” led him to the self discovery of hanging from a pull up bar to increase normal joint space, increase mobility and provide strength to the shoulder.
Dr. Kirsch theorizes that the reason this methodology works is based off of our evolutionary ancestors. Human species are considered one of five from the great ape family (orangutan, gorilla, chimpanzee and bonobo). All of the other great apes, still swing from trees. Swinging from branch to branch is called brachiating. Over the course of the human evolution, we stopped brachiating. In theory, humans came down from trees approximately 3 million years ago but we still have the same shoulders as the other apes. So we have the same shoulders but do not use them the same.
Dr. Kirsch states in his book that about 80% of Americans will experience shoulder pain at some point in their lives and that the annual direct costs such as treatments and indirect costs such as lost productivity exceeding $300 billion. This method of hanging from a pull up bar is cost effective and very easy to have compliance with.
Majority of patients will now be able to jump up and grab a bar, especially if they are in severe pain. The protocol is modified based on available range of motion and pain. The last several months I have started my patients with just slowly bending there knees with their feet on a box to start the hang. In as little as 2 weeks, I have had several patients able to fully hang without their feet on the ground (or box) for 10-30 seconds. Almost all of my shoulder patients that I have personally made this part of their corrective exercise program has had a significant improvement in range of motion and pain.
Who’s ready to hang with me?
Sources: Kirsch, John M. Shoulder Pain?: The Solution & Prevention. Morgan Hill, CA: tand, 2013. Print.