Michael S. Hooker, M.D., Riverside Orthopedic Specialists
Summer is a great time to be active, but jumping into too much activity too soon can lead to injury. Here are a few common shoulder injuries that can result from overuse and overtraining.
What is it?
Strains occur when a muscle or tendon (the tissue connecting muscle to bone) is stretched. Symptoms include:
• muscle spasms/cramps and
• decreased mobility in the muscle.
If you were trying out your kid’s skateboard or attempting your best Nolan Ryan-level fastball when the strain occurred, you may also experience embarrassment and mocking.
What causes them?
An acute shoulder strain is the result of the muscle being stretched too far or too quickly. Acute strains can be caused by sudden events, such as slipping or falling, throwing or heavy lifting. Chronic shoulder strains occur from repetitive motions performed for an extended period of time and can result from sports like rowing, tennis and golf. (As if you needed another reason to despise golf.)
Rotator Cuff Injuries
What is it?
The rotator cuff is comprised of muscles and tendons that keep your arm inside your shoulder socket and, as the name implies, helps rotate the arm. When an injury occurs to any of these muscles or tendons, it can result in shoulder pain and reduced shoulder function. A rotator cuff tear refers to a complete tear of one or more tendons.
Pain can be the result of:
- Tendinitis – the rotator cuff tendons can be irritated or damaged.
- Bursitis/Impingement – the bursa, a fluid filled sac between your rotator cuff and the bone on top of your shoulder (acromion), can become inflamed and swell with more fluid causing pain. When you raise your arm to shoulder height, the space between the acromion and rotator cuff narrows. The acromion can rub against (or “impinge” on) the tendon and the bursa, causing irritation and pain.
- A Rotator Cuff Tear – can be caused by impingement and frequently requires surgical repair.
What causes it?
Because of the complex anatomy and actions of the rotator cuff, injuries to this area are common, especially among athletes and workers who use their arms overhead, such as:
- baseball players,
- tennis players,
- construction workers and
Summer Shoulder Injury Prevention
Shoulder injuries can occur any time, but dramatically increasing the amount or intensity of activity—i.e. a sudden full contact football tournament when your older brother visits—can put you at greater risk. To avoid spending your summer break in a doctor’s office or, even worse, an operating room, follow these guidelines:
- Start slow and progress gradually. Whether you’re participating in sports or an individual exercise program, start slowly and increase frequency and intensity conservatively. Wellness is a lifelong journey, not a destination to be reached in a month or two.
- Incorporate flexibility exercises. Rather than performing the same exercises over and over, add flexibility training into your routine with functional exercises that work your muscles in various planes of motion. You can also add yoga into your exercise regimen, a practice praised by NFL elites like Torrey Smith and Steven Jackson.
- Stretching after activity. While you should always warm up before exercising, stretching prior to activity can actually put you at greater risk of injury because your muscles are so tight. Perform a thorough stretching routine after exercise. Sure it may not look as cool as box jumps, but it’s just as important.
When to Head to the Doctor
Seek immediate medical attention if you sustain a serious shoulder injury resulting in a deformed joint, inability to use the shoulder, acute loss of strength, intense pain or immediate swelling.
For mild shoulder pain, see your doctor if you also experience:
• warmth around the joint,
• tingling or numbness,
• pain that persists after resting and icing the shoulder for four weeks or longer, or
• symptoms that are worsening.
For many people, shoulder pain can be treated effectively without surgery. Usually, a combination of cortisone injections, NSAIDs and physical therapy can help reduce pain and restore shoulder function.