The shoulder is unique, and due to its architecture, it is inherently unstable. Muscles and ligaments hold the large ball and small socket joint in place. To maintain a healthy, pain-free shoulder, its components need to function in a coordinated manner and keep the joint in place. Interruption in the gliding and resting positioning of the joint will lead to strain and possible injury. The impact of a repetitive throwing motion on a deconditioned shoulder, will further stress the supportive tissues and may prove to be a recipe for pain. The development of shoulder strength and coordination will help safeguard you from injury.
Below are four exercises that I prescribe to patients getting ready to return to a throwing sport. Yes, they are rehab exercises, but these will act as a means to prevent injury and ensure you are fit for the season. The following exercises are not exclusive to throwing, but can also apply to volleyball, swimming, tennis and other movements that require strength and power from your shoulder.
Two Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) Patterns
These exercises come as a pair. Their objective is to target coordination of the upper extremity while maintaining a stable shoulder blade and torso. This movement challenges the rotator cuff which is comprised of four small stability muscles.
Pay close attention to maintaining a strong core, creating a straight spine, and stabilizing the shoulder blade. Once you become comfortable with the pattern and feel strong, you may increase your speed and resistance.
Stability Push Up
To complete this exercise, you will need a stability ball or a upside down BOSU ball. The exercise is simple, but due to the instability of the surface you push against, your core and stability muscles will be challenged.
Ensure you keep your spine straight. Do not worry about the depth of your push up. Instead stress importance on maintaining a neutral shoulder position. Challenge yourself: advance the number of reps to build endurance.
Like any limb on our body, a strong core connection is needed for proper movement and form. The plank twist is a great exercise to develop the core and ensure all-around stability.
Be sure that your spine stays straight, and that your shoulder and pelvis girdle move at the same time. Stay strong and push into the ground with your grounded shoulder.
Finally, here are a few tips to help keep your shoulder healthy while on the field:
- Warm-up dynamically. Do not incorporate long hold stretches until after the game.
- Do not continue to throw if experiencing persistent or intense pain.
- Excessive throwing is not recommended for any shoulder. Try to limit yourself to 40-60 throws a game and ensure rest in the days following.
If you find yourself injured, and the pain does not subside within 4-7 days, you are best to seek the advice of a fully-trained healthcare professional before continuing with activity. Contact us to book an appointment.
Written By: Heather Imrie – FCAMPT Physiotherapist