Summertime Shoulder Injuries
We’re in the middle of summer. Vacations are in full swing and so are our bodies, more specifically, our shoulders. With daily trips to the pool, summer camp activities and tennis, shoulder injuries can be quite common.
The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the body. With its ball and socket design, motion can occur in all directions. To allow for this level of mobility, it is important to have stability. Shoulder stability is provided by a group of scapular stabilizers known collectively as the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles that work in synergy with the other shoulder muscles to control the ball of the shoulder joint in the socket. This allows for the extreme movement required for tennis serves, baseball throwing and swimming strokes. However, just as professional athletes can develop shoulder injuries, so can the summertime recreational enthusiast.
Shoulder injuries are very common in recreation
Shoulder injuries are one of the most common injuries related to sports and recreation. This is especially prevalent in more active adults 25-45 years old. One of the main reasons for this is sudden increase in activity during the warm summer months. These injuries usually come in the form of rotator cuff strains and irritations. This can be quite painful and keep you from participating in summer activities.
How to avoid shoulder injuries this summer
Although shoulder injuries are common, they can be avoided. Proper warm-up before playing is the easiest way to prevent strain and injury. Take 10-15 minutes to warm up your muscles and joints. Hit light ground strokes on the tennis court, lift lighter weights in the gym or swim a few laps with slower motions. Proper warm-ups will help with circulation and begin to actively stretch your muscles in preparation for activity.
It is important that your warm-up is specific to your activity or sport. Try mimicking the motions your activity requires, but with no equipment or weights in your hand. Use smaller ranges and work up to larger movements. A simple example would be shoulder circles. Extend your arms out to the side and start doing small circles. Gradually increase the size of the circles and be sure to work in clockwise and counter clockwise directions. This is a great warm-up exercise for tennis, throwing and swimming.
What if you are already experiencing pain?
If you are experiencing shoulder pain or difficulty moving your arm, rest is the best advice. Try to ice your shoulder for 15-20 minutes several times a day for 2-3 days. Shoulder pain is often associated with poor posture. Adding poor posture to overhead activity can lead to inflammation and pain in the shoulder. A good thing to do is to stretch your chest and shoulders. Typically, we slouch forward. This tightens the chest muscles and shoulders causing limited mobility. To help this, try standing in a doorway with your arms on either side of the door. Gently walk forward until you feel stretch across your chest and shoulders. Holding for 30-60 seconds, 3-5 times and doing this daily can significantly help your posture, shoulder mobility and pain levels.
However, if your shoulder pain persists for more than 2-3 days, it would be advisable to consult a physical therapist for and evaluation and treatment. You will be able to have a better understanding of the cause of your pain and what you can do to resolve it.
Summer is the time of year for fun and outdoor activities. Increase activity can lead to injury, but taking the right precautions and allowing for proper rest and recovery will make let you participate in recreation all season long.
For more great tips and information on joint pain, muscular injury, exercise and nutrition, sign up for the Optimize Therapy and Fitness newsletter