By day 11, I’m seeing some real improvement, so it’s time to start focusing on strength, stability and healthy range of motion. I’m super encouraged by how much my shoulder has healed and how much less pain I feel on a daily basis. I feel good that this is not a full tear and I should be able to avoid surgery, so I’m very encouraged.
Okay, the three things we always want to rehab after an injury are: strength, stability and healthy range of motion. In the case of a shoulder injury, those are definitely three areas that get hit hard. My shoulder feels weak, unstable and tight even after 11 days. So, you have to manually rehabilitate that shoulder or it will stay tight, weak and unstable for months, years, or even the rest of your life. It just will not regain it’s natural strength, etc., unless you get in there and rebuild it.
In the case of shoulder rehab, you really want to focus on the back and chest, because those are the big muscle areas that can take stress off the shoulder and help it heal much faster. You normally want to release tightness in the chest muscles and build up strength in a weak upper and middle back. For example, most people have rounded shoulders, so you want to fix that postural distortion as much as possible to help relieve tension and stress in the shoulder. That will help dramatically improve the speed and quality of the healing process.
So, you can start foam rolling all through the chest and lats, and then start doing some light back exercises, assuming you can do so without any pain. You may need to stay away from working the shoulder directly at this point, but if you have some mobility in the shoulder, go ahead and start playing around with different ranges of motion and static holds.
I want to safely and slowly move the shoulder in and out of ranges of motion that do NOT cause any pain. If I feel pain, I back off. I tend to go slow and easy and see how I feel the next day. If it’s a little sore, that’s okay and the I will push it a little more. If it’s painful or worse the next day, I know I need to back off.
Obviously, you will want to follow an excellent shoulder rehab program to make sure you are properly healing the injury and rebuilding that healthy range of motion, strength and stability on a daily and weekly basis. If you’re doing things right, you should see small improvements daily and pretty big improvements on a weekly basis.
But, here’s another important secret… Even after you are out of pain, it is SUPER important to wait to go back to sports or your favorite activity. Just being out of pain does NOT mean your injury is fully healed. You still have to build up that strength, stability and healthy range of motion back to pre-injury status.
Otherwise, you might be going back to early and experience a set-back where you get re-injured or hurt another area, because you are being “protective” of the original injury. So, I highly recommend taking an extra week or two (if possible), once the injury is pain free to rebuild the whole area in and around the injury to get it back to 100% full strength and protect it from re-injury.
I actually believe that an injury is really an opportunity in disguise. It is an area of your body that desperately needs attention and if you rehab it correctly, it will help your entire body function much better and help you reduce your risk of injury as a whole. If you do not rebuild it, it could stay weak and unstable forever. So, the goal should be to do the work get your body even stronger than you were pre-injury and take care of those weak spots, so you are strong, mobile and stable. Take advantage of this injury to really heal yourself fully and then, you will be better off than before the injury!!
Okay… stay tuned for my final shoulder injury update next week!