Healthy Shoulders for Life
Frozen shoulder, torn ligaments, and ongoing pain, are just a few complaints that Gita Pillai, MD, orthopaedic surgeon specializing in shoulders, hears from her patients. In many cases, her patients are active adults, who enjoy kayaking, swimming, pickleball, tennis, or golf. All of these activities can place stress on the shoulder and can cause injury.
“The shoulder is one of the most complex joints in the body, allowing you to place your arm in many different positions. But this flexibility makes it highly susceptible to overuse as well as injury,” said Dr. Pillai, who practices with Orthopaedic Associates of Southern Delaware.
Prevention is Key
Dr. Pillai says one of the easiest ways to prevent injury is to make sure that you do not go from zero activity to playing sports every day of the week. This can often lead to injury. If there is a particular sport that you enjoy playing, focus on flexibility and strength specific to the sport, rather than simply playing every day. If you are uncertain how to do that, seek out advice, search for conditioning programs online, or if you belong to a gym asking the trainers for advice.
The other way to keep your shoulders healthy is to focus on both strength and flexibility. Prior to having any type of injury, include exercises not only for your deltoid muscle but also for the rotator cuff and muscles of your shoulder blade. Many people do not realize it, but the muscles of the shoulder blade are very important in shoulder function. Keeping them strong and flexible, as well as maintaining a good posture – keeping your shoulders back and away from a rounded position – will assist in keeping you pain free.
What to Do if you Have an Injury
Dr. Pillai treats a broad range of shoulder injuries – from dislocation to pain caused by overuse.
If you are a weekend warrior or just starting to get into a sport like pickleball, be sure to start slowly and listen to your body.
“You never want to try to push through the pain. If you are experiencing any soreness or difficulty with activity you need to take some time off,” Dr. Pillai said. “The key to recovery are the basics – resting, stretching, icing and taking an anti-inflammatory medication, if your doctor allows it.”
Stretching exercises can also help. Stretch regularly to improve flexibility and then add in strengthening exercises to help get you back to your baseline without further injury. If your pain does not resolve within two weeks of resting, icing, and stretching you should make an appointment with your doctor.