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, waterboarding, 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 playtime increases, your body has two unsung heroes fueling your fun: your shoulders! With so many water activities at your quick disposal, it’s easy to overdo things a bit and end up with a painful shoulder injury.
So as you head to the water, pay attention to your shoulders and what they might be telling you— before an injury sidelines you from enjoying all that the summer season 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 much higher 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 puts the stress on our shoulders without even realizing it.
Common Shoulder Injuries
For those summer months of water play, 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 the overuse of your shoulders. 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 water 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.
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 at a full recovery. In short: 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 a professional as soon as you suspect this injury.
Preventative Care For Your Shoulders
So what’s a fun-loving, summer-active person to do? To take better care of your shoulders, keep these two maxims in mind: the 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 adequate strength to perform day-to-day activities, pain-free.
Bear in mind: these exercises are for preventative care only! If you’re already experiencing shoulder pain or discomfort, it’s important to seek care swiftly to properly diagnose what’s really going on. From there, a medical professional can point you in the right direction of what exercises may be beneficial to your specific injury.
Bend gently at the waist while engaging your core and keeping your back flat. Let one arm hang down, and gently swing it forward and back 2-3 times. Pause, and repeat the exercises with the same arm side-to-side. Repeat these swings on the other arm.
Face a wall, standing close enough to touch it easily. Reach one arm out to your side, and lean into the wall as your mobility and comfort allows. You should feel a gentle stretch in your shoulder as you lean further in. Hold for several seconds, release and repeat on both sides as needed.
Other small (yet significant) things that you can do at home to help with good overall shoulder health include: maintaining good posture, avoiding overhead movements for rest, and avoiding carrying heavy bags on one shoulder.
How Can Chiropractic Help With Shoulder Injuries?
Another great way to help keep your shoulders in tip-top shape through the summer is by receiving consistent chiropractic treatment. Adjustments of the spine, neck and extremities can help to realign the body and provide real relief. Believe it or not, these gentle adjustments help to decrease inflammation, relieve pressure, reduce nerve irritability, and ultimately allow your entire body to relax and allow actual healing to take place. By working consistent chiropractic care into your rehabilitation routine, you could cut down on your healing time and increase your overall quality of life. That’s a huge win-win.
Whether you’re working through a shoulder injury currently or looking to get help proactively, chiropractic care can help with overall shoulder health.