Shoulder injuries are very common. The shoulder girdle is very important to your body's core structure, stabilization and efficiency. And, shoulder injuries tend to cause other injuries. So, take care of them!
When it comes to any injury, prevention is critical. A typical injury I see in clients and others is many times related to soft tissues (i.e., tendons, ligaments, muscles, etc.).
Treatment of any soft tissue injury during the first 24-72 hours is important to offset any further injury and inflammation. The general rule of thumb is to use the R.I.C.E.R. principle (REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, ELEVATION, REFERRAL FOR MEDICAL ASSISTANCE). Here are some common shoulder injuries:
1. Frozen Shoulder - This condition affects the shoulder joint capsule. Joint stiffness and loss of movement are the primary symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medicine and physical therapy are usually needed.
2. Shoulder Tendonitis - This condition does not affect the joint capsule but does affect the muscles and tendons of the shoulder joint. Pain, weakness and inflammation accompany shoulder tendonitis. The two main causes are degeneration and wear and tear.
Since the shoulder is a very tendinous area, it receives very little blood supply. Massage is often used to increase blood flow and oxygen to this area.
3. Rotator Cuff Injury - This can be a muscle strain or tear due to heavy lifting or excessive force being placed on the shoulder (such as wear and tear from throwing a ball). The larger the tear, the harder it is to lift or extend the arm.
As with tendonitis, pain, weakness and inflammation accompany rotator cuff injuries. This condition also does not affect the joint capsule but does affect the muscles and tendons of the shoulder joint. Rotator cuff injuries can sometimes take months to heal because of the lack of blood supply to this area. Massage will increase blood flow and oxygen to this area.
It takes an integrated training program to lessen the chances of shoulder injuries. There are no guarantees, but taking the following steps can help keep your shoulders injury-free:
1) Poor Technique: Bad throwing/motion habits will certainly lead to shoulder problems. When fatigue sets in, the shoulder problems increase. It is critical to learn proper throwing/motion technique in your sport.
2) Flexibility: Adequate flexibility is important for every part of the body and especially so for the shoulder. Freedom of movement for the pelvis, trunk, scapula, and humerus are important. For the rotator cuff, balancing the forces centering the head of the humerus and freedom of movement is critical.
The rotator cuff muscles are dependent on good positioning of the scapula for effective control. Bad positioning of the scapula results in decreased ability of the shoulder muscles to produce power. Static stretching for flexibility should not be done prior to training or athletic competition (a dynamic flexibility routine prepares the entire body best for competition).
3) Core Strength and Stability: All movement begins with the core, so it is essential to strenghen and stabilize it. For the shoulder, the important areas are the lumbar spine, cervical spine and the scapulothoracic joint. If these areas are not stable, extra loading and strain is passed on to the shoulder joint.
4) General Muscle Strength: Once the body's core is adequately strengthened and stabilized, the body's limbs should then be strengthened. A strong core maximizes limb strength and power.
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Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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