Include Core Stability Exercises to Fully Recover From Shoulder Injury
Category: Sports Injury
Let’s face it; we could all use extra core work. This is especially true if you are rehabbing a shoulder injury. When a patient is transitioning from passive symptomatic treatment and on to rehabilitation exercises, they are often confused as to why I have them start with core exercises. As a sports injury specialist, and after treating hundreds of shoulder injury patients, I can tell you that there are a few common patterns that are nearly always present; the shoulder in question will have poor mobility/flexibility, there will be areas of over activated muscles around that shoulder and most importantly; the shoulder and the core will have poor stability.
Obviously, an injured shoulder will have poor mobility/flexibility. That’s not a revelation. However, the poor mobility/flexibility I’m referring to will be present long before the shoulder is actually injured. In cases of repetitive use, the muscles and tissues surrounding the shoulder will shorten and “lock-up” as a defense against damaging ligaments and the rotator cuff. The body is smart; and it will do what is necessary to prevent a more serious injury. Over activated muscles surrounding the shoulder helps prevent excessive strain on the more critical structures that hold the shoulder together. So, if you are constantly dealing with tight shoulder muscles i.e. deltoids, traps, levator scapula and rhomboids, chances are, your body is tightening those muscles in response to constant strain and stress to the inner structures in your shoulder.
The shoulder and hip are considered ball and socket joints. Unlike the hip however, the shoulder isn’t truly held together that tight and is really stabilized and held together with ligaments and the rotator cuff. Of course, the ligaments are there to keep the upper arm bone or humerus connected to the shoulder blade. However, it’s the rotator cuff that is responsible for maintaining the stability of the shoulder. When healthy and working correctly, the rotator cuff will contract to lock in and stabilize your shoulder. Then, the bigger prime movers take over like the deltoids, traps and lats. This system will prevent excessive movement between the two bones. As the result of overuse and poor conditioning, the rotator cuff can become weak and inefficient. This eventually results in excessive movement between the humerus and shoulder blade, straining the capsule and the ligaments. This leads to shoulder pain, poor range of motion, bursitis and rotator cuff injury.
When a patient sees me for a resolution to their shoulder injury, my first goal is to treat the pain with passive symptomatic treatment. I will employ laser therapy, soft tissue work and kinesio tape until the pain level decreases to a workable level. Then, we will begin the exercise rehab. As I stated, in nearly all cases in addition to poor shoulder stability the patient will have poor core stability as well. To fully rehab the shoulder, developing core strength is a priority. Understand that the extremities do not generate power. The power in movement comes from the core. The arms and legs only transmit the power to the end movement like throwing a ball, swinging a tennis racquet or golf club, running and lifting weights. Without sufficient core strength, you will over-use and stress your shoulder when you attempt to throw harder or hit the ball farther. So, if you are dealing with an injured shoulder, incorporate a solid core program into your plan.
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