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What to Do During and After Your Shoulder Injury

Posted by Andrea Hamel

September 15, 2016 at 1:08 PM

Despite your best training efforts, there are times when injuries happen. Depending on your sport and your workout routine, a shoulder injury can be devastating! Knowing how to respond quickly and appropriately to an injury, however, can be one of the biggest determining factors in how long it takes to get you back on your feet again. 

As Soon As You Experience Pain

If you've been exercising for some time, chances are, you know the difference between overwork pain and pain that comes from an injury. Any time you experience the sharp pain that lets you know that you've been hurt, you should stop exercising immediately. Pushing through the pain when you're simply going past your limits is one thing. Pushing past an injury is something else entirely. Then, follow these steps:

  • Assume that you won't be training for the next couple of days. Resting the joint is the best way to allow it to heal.
  • If moving your shoulder normally causes pain, it's time for a trip to the doctor. Sharp, severe pain should always be dealt with by a physician.
  • Apply ice. This will continue for the next several days, generally at least twice a day for 30-60 minutes.

Injuries That Appear Later

Sometimes, you won't realize in the moment that you've experienced an injury. Symptoms might show up hours later or even peak the next day, making it difficult to determine what is a true injury and what is simply exercise-related soreness. If your pain follows these characteristics, you've injured your shoulder, and you need to take steps to get it healed up. 

  • Weakness or instability in the shoulder, or a "shaky" feeling even though you know you're able to complete the movement or lift the weight
  • Stiffness that won't allow you to move your shoulder normally, especially if you can't shift your arm into a common position
  • Pain that prevents you from carrying out normal activities, especially those that are part of your daily routine

If you experience any of these symptoms, discontinue the movements that are causing discomfort. If resting your shoulder doesn't allow a full recovery, a trip to the doctor is once again in order. Keep in mind that overuse or repetition injuries are a fairly common cause of shoulder pain, and continuing the activity that causes that pain can cause it to worsen over time. 

what to do during and after your shoulder injury

Treating Yourself

A shoulder injury can cause serious problems with your normal workout routine. You don't want to spend too much time sitting on the bench, but you don't want to overwork the shoulder during the healing process. As you're healing, remember these steps.

  • Apply ice at least twice per day for at least thirty minutes until pain subsides
  • Use over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce pain and make it easier to carry on with your regular daily activities.
  • Wrap or support your shoulder as necessary, using braces or kinesiology tape to help provide the support you need. This may be particularly useful as you first return to practice after your injury. 

Exercises That Help

If you don't need to see a doctor or a physical therapist about your injury, especially for minor inflammation or irritation, you might find yourself wondering if there's anything you can do to help your shoulder heal faster. Thankfully, there are several exercises that can help build strength in your shoulder without further increasing the irritation. 

Wall push-ups will help build strength and stability in your shoulder. Your focus should be on moving deep into the push-up without straining your shoulders. Work gradually deeper into the movement. As your strength increases, you can move your push-ups to countertops, tabletops, chairs, and other increasingly lower surfaces.

Dumbbell curls using a light weight will allow you to stabilize your shoulder muscles. This isn't the time to be a beast and grab the heaviest weight you can lift! Instead, start light and work your way up gradually. 

Use an elastic band or resistance band attached to a doorway and pull it gently towards your body

Stretch thoroughly to help maintain movement within the joint and make it easier to maintain full mobility when you get back to your regular routine. 

Pendulum exercises require you to keep your injured shoulder relaxed while shifting your body weight to create a pendulum motion.

Switch It Up

Here's the good news: a shoulder injury doesn't necessarily mean that you have to give up your entire exercise routine for the next six weeks. There are plenty of exercises that you can still do without potentially causing more trouble with your shoulder

Go for a run. A light jog, a walk, or some time on the elliptical are all perfectly acceptable activities. If they cause pain, check your form or dial down the intensity for the time being.

Try a swim. Just make sure that your stroke doesn't involve moving your shoulder into any position that causes pain.

Work with cables or bands. Avoid motions that require pulling your shoulder over your head, and discontinue any exercise that causes pain. Light weights will allow you to maintain mass without deepening the shoulder injury.

Work that leg press. Working your legs, glutes, and abs is the perfect way to stay in great shape without pushing your shoulder past what it can handle. 

Returning to Practice

When you've been injured, getting back to your regular workout routine is often one of your first priorities. The sooner you can get back to it, the better you'll feel about the whole thing! Unfortunately, one of the biggest considerations in recovering from a shoulder injury is giving yourself time to heal. When you do return to your regular routine, practice, and game schedule, there are several things to keep in mind.

Start slow. As much as you want to dive right back in, it could be detrimental to your overall recovery. Don't dive right back in with your heavies weight, your max reps, or your fastest-ever pitch. Instead, take it down several notches and gradually work your way back to normal.

Stretch carefully before and after every practice. Both static and dynamic stretches are important to ensuring that your shoulder moves freely when you need it to. 

Increase intensity gradually. One good workout does not necessarily mean that you're all the way back to normal. Build intensity gradually and allow yourself time to regain your strength. Work your way back to normal rather than thinking that you can do it in one big jump.

Build strength and stability. The better the strength and stability in your shoulder, the lower the likelihood that you'll re-injure the joint. As you come back from your injury, take the time to build both in order to prevent future injuries in the future.

Keep icing. Use support as needed. In short: take care of yourself. The best way to come back all the way from a shoulder injury is to avoid re-injuring the joint before you even get back to practice!

Taking it slow because of an injury is frustrating, but it's well worth the effort you'll put in. Find yourself in need of supplies during the rehab and recovery process? Contact us today for information on the tools you'll need to properly support your shoulder throughout your recovery.

Topics: shoulder injuries, shoulder injury


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