As the days become longer and temperatures rise, it seems that everyone wants to head outside for a good time. We don’t blame you! Between summer marathon days at the pool with friends and family, tubing, kayaking, and paddleboarding, one thing is clear: there are a TON of ways to cool off and have fun out on the water.
As outdoor activities increases, your body has two unsung heroes fueling your fun: your shoulders! With so many water activities and fun things to enjoy outdoors, it’s easy to overdo things a bit and end up with a painful shoulder injury.
So as you head to the water/outdoors, pay attention to your shoulders and what they might be telling you— before an injury sidelines you from enjoying all that the summer has to offer.
What Is An Overuse Injury?
Many summer shoulder injuries are referred to as “overuse injuries.” An overuse injury is exactly as it sounds: these injuries come from doing “too much, too soon.” For example, it isn’t too difficult to understand that someone who begins running 10 miles a day after not running at all would be at a high risk of getting injured. It’s the same for someone who’s completely new to weightlifting and wants to bench press 300 pounds. Our bodies need time to adapt to new stresses, and then adequately recover before building them up to higher loads.
The same goes for “fun” summer activities. It can be easy to overlook the increased water time and extra strain on your shoulders— after all, you’re not going for a daily workout, but rather heading out for a good time. Right? Yes, but the physical nature of many summer water sports/outdoor activities puts the stress on our shoulders without even realizing it.
Let's talk about common shoulder injuries; it’s good to understand some of the most common culprits of shoulder pain. We’ve outlined a few here to keep an eye on.
Inflammation in the Shoulders
This one is pretty basic and comes from overuse. If you’re experiencing general achiness and soreness in your shoulders, especially after heavy use, you may have inflammation in the joint. Rest and ice can usually help knock this one out early.
Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
Your rotator cuffs are groups of muscles and tendons that rally around your shoulder joint to keep everything secure and operating smoothly. It’s important to keep them in tip-top shape, or you’ll feel it later! Your rotator cuffs can become strained with repetitive overhead activities, aggravated by swimming and other summer activities. If you’re experiencing pain while raising your arm, a clicking sound with overhead motion, or loss of strength and/or motion within your arm, you may be experiencing rotator cuff tendonitis. This injury is usually treated with rest, ice, and some appropriate at-home exercises.
If you’re having difficulty reaching up and behind your back without pain or a feeling of weakness, you may be experiencing shoulder impingement. This happens when the rotator cuff becomes inflamed and subsequently, the swelling inside of the shoulder compresses the tendons. Shoulder impingement often happens around the same time as rotator cuff tendonitis and much like tendonitis can usually be treated with rest, ice, and structured at-home exercises provided by your trusted physical therapist.
Rotator Cuff Tear
A rotator cuff tear is often the more extreme version of rotator cuff tendonitis. A tear can occur in the rotator cuff over time and with heavy repetitive use, and also during an accident – like a sudden fall. If you’re feeling pain that shoots down the side of your arm from your shoulder or pain and weakness in your shoulder with overhead activities, you may have a rotator cuff tear.
Though many rotator cuff tears are treatable with ice, rest, and a regimented rehab exercise routine, it’s incredibly important to seek medical help for an accurate diagnosis, as early treatment is key. A delayed approach to rehab may put your tendon’s ability to heal at risk; the longer the rotator cuff goes without treatment with a tear, the more it begins to retract, decreasing your chances of a full recovery. It's very important to stay on top of this injury! Medium tears tend to respond well to appropriate conservative rehab, so be sure to get rolling on a prescribed plan from us here at Judice Sports & Rehab.
Preventative Care For Your Shoulders
So what’s a fun summer-active person to do? To take better care of your shoulders, keep this in mind: range of motion and strength. At-home exercises for shoulder health aren’t necessarily focusing on building muscle, but rather promoting good, pain-free range of motion and strength to perform day-to-day activities. Check out this video to start preventing your pain. Many people do not realize it, but the muscles of the shoulder blade are very important in shoulder function. Keeping them strong and flexible, as well as maintaining a good posture – keeping your shoulders back and away from a rounded position – will assist in keeping you pain-free.
These exercises are for preventative care only! If you’re already experiencing shoulder pain or discomfort, it’s important that you reach out to us today to schedule! Here at St. Louis' own Judice Sports & Rehab we offer wellness and mobility maintenance programs.
Most people get their medical health checked annually … why wouldn’t you get all the things that help you move and enjoy an active lifestyle checked at least once a year? In the annual check-up, we do a full-body movement assessment and identify any areas of tightness and/or weakness that could be causing problems or lead to serious injury. These sessions are designed to identify potential problems and create a plan to address them ASAP! So whether you're working through a shoulder injury or just looking to be proactive, reach out today to schedule your annual PT check-up!
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