Exercising with a shoulder injury Exercising with a shoulder injury

Safely maintaining your fitness during a shoulder injury will not only help prevent weight gain while injured, but also improve your general recovery.

The shoulder is a highly mobile joint, which shoulder specialist and orthopaedic surgeon Dr Andrew Saies warns can come at a cost. “The shoulder is prone to instability triggered by repetitive above-shoulder use, like racquet and throwing sports or weight training, particularly for women with increased flexibility during childbearing years,” he explains.

“A torn rotator cuff is the most common shoulder injury, known as tendonitis or bursitis. This tendon connects muscle to the top of the arm bone and provides power for arm rotation, progressively wearing out with use. Once it starts to wear or tear completely, the shoulder hurts with any at or above-shoulder activity.”

Things to avoid
Avoid activities with the arms in a ‘stop sign’ position, above-shoulder repetition or weights until the shoulder settles, which could be a few weeks or even months, depending on the severity of the tear and whether surgery has been required. During this time, safely maintain cardiovascular fitness with stationary bikes, walking machines or hydrotherapy.

Added protection
Deep heat creams can provide relief, but no evidence proves they enhance recovery or prevent further injury. Post-operation may require a sling for up to six weeks.

Future injury prevention
Dr Saies advises a sensible approach to above-shoulder weight training usually prevents cuff tears, but those who have sustained an injury generally face the choice between permanent exercise restrictions or surgery for shoulder stabilisation and pain elimination.

Of course there is no one-size-fits-all with fitness programs, particularly those of a rehabilitative nature. Your recommended recovery time and regimen will vary depending on the type and severity of your injury, so be sure to seek regular advice from an exercise physiologist or physiotherapist. Listen to your body and ease back into your former fitness regimen safely. It is natural to be filled with an abundance of enthusiasm when symptoms subside, but remember: slow and steady wins the race!