Rotator cuff injuries are common, especially among athletes who use their arms to throw or swing a racket or club. While some mild injuries can heal with therapy and other conservative options, more severe or complex tears can require surgery to repair damaged tissue and restore joint function.
Made up of a collection of muscles and tendons, the rotator cuff holds the shoulder joint together while also facilitating a range of movement, including rotating your shoulder and lifting it. Although arthroscopic surgery uses minimally invasive techniques for faster recovery, many athletes are impatient — and that leaves them open for additional injuries.
At Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Vestavia Hills, Alabama, Thomas Powell, MD, and his team help athletes of all levels get back to the activities they love with post-surgery therapy, education, and guidance tailored to their needs. If rotator cuff repair is in your future, here are five steps you can take to help you get back to your game.
1. Stick to your therapy plan
After rotator cuff surgery, you’ll embark on a physical therapy program to restore strength and mobility to your joint. Before too long, your shoulder will start to feel better — and you may be tempted to get back to training. But don’t.
Your therapy plan is designed to help you recover over time, and if you resume athletic training too soon, you could wind up reinjuring your shoulder and delaying healing. In some cases, it might prevent you from resuming your sport for good. Instead, follow the therapy plan that’s been designed for you, and only incorporate training activities when your therapist and Dr. Powell give you the go-ahead.
2. Go slowly
Once you get the OK to resume training, don’t get impatient. Many people want to get back in the game right away. But again, it’s important to take things slowly and follow the doctor’s advice.
Although therapy prepares your shoulder for regular activity, the sport you play may put extra strain on your joint, especially if you use it repetitively. Instead of trying to resume your pre-injury level of play, take time to build up your intensity to avoid injuring your shoulder again.
3. Always warm up and cool down
Warming up and cooling down are essential whether you have an injury or not. By warming up your muscles, you get them ready for play, which will reduce your chances of getting injured and make them less likely to be sore or stiff afterwards.
Every sport has specific warm-up and cool-down routines. Work with your physical therapist to develop routines that work for you. Plan on spending 15 minutes or so before any game to get your muscles warmed up and supplied with the oxygen and nutrients they need to withstand the stresses of competitive play.
4. Broaden your routine
When one part of your body is injured, it’s natural to put most of your focus on that part when warming up or doing strengthening exercises. But doing so can yield “lopsided” results that leave other areas weaker and less prepared for stress and strain.
Be sure your training program includes other areas of your body, including your core and legs. Not only can it improve your game, but it can balance out the demands on your muscles and ligaments, helping you prevent future injuries.
5. Pay attention to your body
Finally, listen to the signals your body is sending. If you feel pain, back off. When you’re feeling fatigued, take some time to rest. “Playing through the pain” is a popular slogan among some athletes, but it’s not good advice for your body. If you do notice shoulder symptoms returning, call the office to schedule an exam right away.
Get the care you need
Shoulder injuries can cause long-term pain, stiffness, and other symptoms unless they’re treated. As a leading orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, Dr. Powell has extensive experience managing shoulder injuries in athletes and other active people.
To learn how he can help you restore normal, pain-free shoulder movement, call 205-606-5232 or book an appointment online with Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine today.