Unsurprisingly, shoulder injuries and weightlifting tend to go hand-in-hand. 36% of weightlifting injuries happen at the shoulder joint.
It can pose a frustrating dilemma. Many weightlifting movements require shoulder movement, including presses, rows, and flyes. Not to mention, to perform most squat variations, you often have to get that bar up over your head.
It can set your goals back. You might feel irritated and annoyed with it. However, it’s crucial to allow time for your shoulder injury to fully heal before returning to heavyweights. So, what should you be doing? First, let’s take a closer look at the shoulder!
BREAKING DOWN THE SHOULDER JOINT
The shoulder is the most unstable joint in the human body. It’s easy to injure - all it takes is one wrong move or slightly too much, too soon. The rotator cuff muscles are often the root of the problem.
The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles that help hold your upper arm bone (the humerus) in your shoulder socket. These muscles play a major role in shoulder movements - helping to raise your arm and rotate it.
The most common shoulder injury is impingement. The tendons of the rotator cuff become inflamed and irritated. Why? When you perform the same movement or a movement incorrectly, these tendons become pinched in the subacromial space in the shoulder joint. The subacromial space is a gap between the scapula, your shoulder blade, and the humerus. Normally, this space allows the tendons to move freely. However, any movement that narrows this space, such as overhead movements, can cause impingement.
If you have pain performing overhead movements, you likely have an impingement injury. Other common injuries include rotator cuff tears. Yet, both injuries require adequate rest and rehabilitation.
TAKING CARE OF YOUR SHOULDER INJURY
You’ve been experiencing pain in your shoulder. It started during your last workout sessions - and you can’t seem to shake it.
First and foremost, ice the area. Icing will help reduce the pain and decrease inflammation. Place a wet cloth between your skin and the ice. And only apply the ice for 10-15 minutes at a time.
The next best thing you can do is seek out professional advice. Book an appointment with your family doctor or physical therapist. They can help guide you through recovery - ensuring you get back to your regular routine as soon as possible.
Be careful not to sleep on your sore side. This can aggravate the issue. Stay away from heavy shoulder lifts for the time being (or until your doctor has cleared you to do so). We know what you are probably thinking - what can you do?
Postural exercises can help! Although, if you experience pain, stop the exercise or ease off. Range of motion exercises are also crucial, especially during the early stages of recovery. If you don’t move your shoulder, you risk developing a frozen shoulder. This is a condition where you literally can’t move your shoulder. And it is the last thing you want.
Here are a few simple range of motion and simple strengthening exercises to get you started:
Passive Shoulder ROM
These exercises require a broomstick, hockey stick, cane, or something similar. Passive means your opposite, unaffected arm is doing all the work. Your affected arm is just along for the ride. You are focusing on maintaining and improving your shoulder range of motion. These exercises will help prevent a frozen shoulder, as well as promote a healthy recovery.
- Stand tall, with your affected side’s hand resting on the end of the stick. Hold the middle of the stick with your opposite hand. Begin with your affected arm resting at your side.
- Using your good arm, push your affected arm up and forward as far as you comfortably can. If you feel pain, only go up to this point. Then, slowly lower back to start.
- Again, using your good arm, push your affected arm out to the side in a similar fashion.
- Repeat the same thing for pushing the arm back and up.
- Next, bend your elbow to 90 degrees at your side. Holding the stick the same way and keeping your elbow bent, use the stick to push your forearm out to the side. Slowly bring your arm back to the starting position.
- Repeat each way 8-10 times, 2-3 times per day.
Active Shoulder ROM
Once passive movements become pain-free, you can move onto actively moving your shoulder. Perform the same movements, minus the stick. Do 8-10 repetitions, 2-3 times per day.
If movement causes pain, you can start by performing basic isometric exercises. These exercises require no movement but still contract the muscles - increasing your strength. They give you a strengthening option while your shoulder heals. Again, if any exercise causes pain, stop or ease off, perform fewer repetitions, or hold for less time.
- Stand in a doorway. Begin with your arm straight at your side.
- Facing the door frame, gently press your fist forward into the wall - as if you were going to raise it straight up in front of you.
- Hold for 5 seconds.
- Turn to your side. Do the same thing but as if you were trying to lift your arm straight out to the side. Again, hold for 5 seconds.
- Turn to face away from the door frame and press your arm back - as if you were trying to extend your shoulder straight back. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Bend your elbow to 90 degrees. Stand so that the wall is to the outside of your arm. Press your forearm against the wall - as if you were rotating your shoulder outward. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Again with your elbow bent at 90 degrees, stand so that the wall is on the inside of your arm (this is where you definitely need a doorway). Press your forearm against the wall, as if you were trying to rotate your arm inward. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Repeat each movement 8-10 times for 2-3 sets.
Take care of your shoulder injury! You don’t want it to turn into a nagging and persistent injury that haunts you for years to come. Take time to rest. Let your shoulder heal. Then, return to your regular routine, crushing each and every one of your goals.