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Overcoming A Shoulder Injury

Learn Some Quick Tips, Stretches & Exercises!

Posted by Cliff_Bouvier - April 10th, 2013

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Three typical types of injuries that can occur in the shoulder

  1. Dislocated Shoulder
  2. Separated Shoulder
  3. Rotator Cuff Injury

Dislocated Shoulder

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A dislocated shoulder injury happens when the top of the upper arm bone (the ball) slips out of its socket. The ball can slip forward, backward, or downward. Prior to an actual dislocation, it may just feel like it’s going to pop out of place but hasn’t quite yet. This is known as a subluxation, or a “partial dislocation”.

A dislocation can occur if you suffer a massive impact to the shoulder area such as being tackled in football or checked extremely hard into the boards in hockey where the ball actually becomes dislodged from the socket. You can also dislocate your shoulder if you rotate your shoulder joint too far, like when serving in volleyball.

Symptoms are usually intense pain following the pop of the ball from the socket. Other symptoms may include swelling, bruising and weakness in the arm.

The shoulder can be popped back into place by a professional or someone who knows what they are doing in this type of situation. In some instances the injury may require pain medication or a sedative in order to pop it back in place. In severe cases you may need to keep the shoulder immobilized in a sling for a period of up to three weeks.

If the shoulder is being stubborn and it won't go back into place, you may need surgery to relocate the joint. Surgery can also repair torn ligaments or tendons in your shoulder if that should occur.

Some preventative measures for future injuries can include stretching and increasing strength by adding weights and resistance bands to your workouts during and after rehabilitation. Once you dislocate a shoulder, you are at a higher risk of a reoccurrence, so wearing shoulder pads and protective gear or limiting the types of sports associated with this type of injury is recommended.

Separated Shoulder

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A Separated Shoulder occurs when ligaments connecting the acromion and collarbone become torn. The AC (acromioclavicular) joint is located where the uppermost part of your shoulder blade, a structure called the acromion, meets your collarbone.

Getting hit hard in the shoulder area can cause this type of injury, as well as falling on an outstretched hand. Symptoms include pain in the shoulder and perhaps a bump at the top of the shoulder. Treatments include wearing a sling to immobilize the shoulder and icing the injured area every twenty minutes or so for several hours to reduce swelling. Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help to minimize pain and help reduce swelling as well

Prevention of this kind of injury would be to incorporate range of motion and strengthening exercises into your weekly regimen. Keep in mind that you always want to be gradually increasing the weight and number of reps to maximize how much you can strengthen your injured shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Injury

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Your rotator cuff is the set of four muscles that sits around the ball of the shoulder joint and allows the shoulder to move. A rotator cuff injury can occur when you perform movements such as lifting your hands over your head, pitching a baseball, swimming the freestyle or butterfly stroke, serving in tennis, and certain weight lifting exercises. These movements cause a shoulder impingement which is when the top part of the shoulder blade pinches the rotator cuff muscles.

A condition called tendonitis happens when you do repetitive movements that wear or overload the tendons of the rotator cuff. Sports such as tennis, swimming, golfing and weight lifting are the types of activities where tendonitis is more prevalent. If you ignore the signs (pain) and continue to do the repetitive movements, the tendon that connects the rotator cuff muscles to the ball part of the joint can eventually tear.

Pain is the main symptom of a rotator cuff injury. If the pain gets worse when you raise your arm overhead and you hear a click or popping sound then it may be time to get your shoulder checked out. Eventually, the shoulder will hurt even when you're not moving it which will greatly limit your shoulder movement and reduce your strength.

Methods of treatment can include rest for several days to allow for the inflammation to subside, followed by rotator cuff stretching and mobility exercises. Avoid lifting anything above shoulder level until the injury heals. An anti-inflammatory medication or corticosteroid injection may help bring down swelling and reduce pain. Depending on the severity of the rotator cuff injury, you may require physical therapy or even surgery to correct the issue. Generally, the worst cases warrant treatment for several weeks to several months to heal fully.

Strengthen The Area- Exercise & Stretching

Each of these injuries involve either the actual shoulder joint or the muscles that connect the shoulder to the arm. After some recovery time for healing and approval from your doctor, it is recommended that you begin to exercise your shoulder to strengthen and prevent future injuries. However, keep in mind that most shoulder injuries require 4 - 6+ weeks of recovery time so the loss of strength may be significant.

The half-movement upright row is a great exercise to help to improve flexibility and strength. This exercise engages the rear and lateral deltoids. Unlike a standard upright row, this is a half-movement exercise to protect the freshly-healed shoulder muscles. To start off, choose a weight that is slightly challenging, but not excessively heavy. If your shoulder injury was caused by improper exercise, it is imperative that you choose a weight that does not cause excessive strain on the area. Use common sense and good judgment when determining the amount of sets and reps so that you are not re-injuring the shoulder.

Other exercises to consider when rehabilitating a shoulder injury can include front raises which focus on the "anterior deltoid", lateral raises which focus on the "medial deltoid” and rear raises which focus on the "posterior deltoid". Two more to consider would be arm circles with clockwise & counter clockwise motions as well as cable rotator pulls.

A great way to improve the range of motion of your injured shoulder is with stretching. Stretching will also minimize any pain related to the tightening of the muscles and ligaments. A few stretches you should start with include head raises with your hands behind your head, the hand to shoulder blade reach and walking your hands up a doorway. Perform each stretch for 3 sets of a 30 - 60 second hold. Then rest 15 - 20 seconds between each set and repeat.

As you perform these exercises and stretches please keep in mind that during the healing process you may experience slight pain and discomfort in your shoulder. This is normal but if it becomes unbearable then you should stop what you are doing and have a check-up with your doctor.

Lastly, if you want to ensure that you are at the most minimal risk of a shoulder injury during a workout, then you need to perform a quick 5 – 10 minute shoulder warm-up before any exercise that involves the shoulder joint. This can include anything from the barbell overhead press and barbell bench-press to the barbell squat. As long as you always become prepared to exercises, you will be able to push yourself hard, get great results, and avoid painful injuries!

*Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen following an injury.

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Thats a very good article. I've a pain on my left shoulder whenever I'm doing shoulder press or barbell bench, however I dont have pain while doing lateral raises or dumbbell pench press. I'm doing  the warmups and stretching now but the pain still there. any idea about what to focus on for this?


This is such a great article.  So many people have shoulder injuries and this has a lot of great information @cliff_bouvier


Great article! I have been searching for possible "impingement syndrome" issues on this site.  I have had pain in the lateral/posterior deltoid for quite a few years and have done exercises a lot like the ones in Scott's video, "Nursing Shoulder Injuries."  Do you think I should have this looked at or what would you suggest?  I have not done exericises for this injury consistently.  How long should I give it before going to an orthopedic doctor?  Thanks.

heyhay5212  Edit  Delete  Close

@hawk_given.  The name of the article is "Got pain? No gains: Shoulder Impingement Syndrome."

Hawk_Given  Edit  Delete  Close

Looking forward to the article as well as many others I would assume.  

What is the title of the article @heyhay5212?

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

I am working on uploading it now @heyhay5112