Shoulder injuries can be tricky. Sometimes, the injured shoulder will feel deceptively limber and pain-free, following rehabilitative work. But shoulders injuries can linger, if not carefully managed.
Years after an injury, the pain can return. One false move and you’re back where you were – even if you may have consciously forgotten where that was. The shoulder isn’t going to forget, especially if you return to training too soon and too enthusiastically.
So, this post is about the 5 biggest mistakes people make returning to training after a shoulder injury. I hope it helps you keep your shoulders doing the heavy lifting we all love them for and training like a beast (when you’re ready to).
1. Releasing the beast too soon
Just because you feel ready, doesn’t mean to say that you are. Many people jump the gun following a shoulder injury and end up getting in over their heads by training too hard.
It’s important that clinicians are careful to explain the importance of keeping the beast in its cage until it’s time to release it, to give your shoulder time to catch up to your enthusiasm. This is key. As medical professionals, we have a responsibility to counsel active people to hold the beast mode and work up to their previous level of fitness.
2. Getting lopsided
I don’t need to tell anyone who’s had a shoulder injury that muscle atrophies while you’re waiting to heal. This is a normal process and not permanent.
Part of the rehabilitation process is restoring your shoulder’s strength, but before taking on your regular training schedule, it’s necessary to fully rebuild the strength of the injured shoulder, to restore overall biomechanical balance and symmetry between the 2 sides.
Not doing so can result in further dysfunction.
3. Superficial approaches
Too often, clinicians address symptoms, not going any deeper than that. But with shoulder injuries, it’s important to find and address the causes of the injury and not just the injury itself.
This approach gets to the heart of the problem and is a major contributing factor in successful rehabilitation from shoulder injuries and avoiding future recurrence.
4. No systematic plan
Every active person who’s had a shoulder injury needs strong guidance and a return to training schedule, as prescribed by a medical professional.
Defining goals with the doctor directing your recovery is key here. Once you’ve laid those out, you have the framework for establishing a systematic program of recovering lost mobility, strength and flexibility. A haphazard approach with no clear timelines or goal-setting is a recipe for reinjury.
5. Shrugging off maintenance
The absence of pain doesn’t indicate that the way ahead is clear. You have injured yourself and while it may no longer hurt to move, your body still needs you to recognize its needs.
Maintaining a mindful regimen of soft tissue management helps to maintain mobility and prevent recurrence. Maintenance under the care of a professional should be part of your return to training program.
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