Shoulder Surgery: 6 Tips for an Active Lifestyle After Shoulder Injury | Dr. Wilson

While some joint and shoulder pain is a natural part of aging, many injuries occur during athletic activities causing wear and tear or sudden trauma to the shoulder joint. Athletics like baseball, golf, tennis, kayaking, and skiing can cause injury due to repetitive stress. Certain careers, like painting homes or working as a grocery cashier, can also lead to shoulder injuries after years of repeated movement and strain.

When a favorite sport or long-term career causes a shoulder injury, patients are often fearful that they will never be able to return to their beloved past-time. Fortunately, once a shoulder has been repaired, whether through surgery or physical therapy, being active is one of the best ways to assist with healing! However, it’s important to approach these activities carefully.

For years Dr. Wilson served as the orthopedic doctor for baseball professionals on the Chicago White Sox. When a baseball player is injured, they are eager to return to their livelihood, high-paying career, and lifelong passion. After years of helping professional athletes recover from injuries and return to the field, Dr. Wilson has a specialized insight into easing back into shoulder-intensive activities.

So don’t worry! An injury doesn’t mean you’re permanently benched. Here are six pieces of advice for ensuring you can enjoy your favorite sports again — while still protecting your shoulder from future injury.

  1. Move, Move, Move!

When recovering from joint injuries, it may be tempting to lay in bed with pillows and ice-packs. However, it’s important to move your joint and prevent it from getting stiff. Not only will this stiffness cause pain and inflammation, it can actually decrease range-of-motion permanently.

Physical therapy can sometimes feel uncomfortable, but it’s an important part of healing the joint. Your doctor will likely give you some exercises and stretches to do at home. Even if you’re tempted to take another ibuprofen and take a nap, try your best to practice the gentle stretches and range-of-motion exercises your doctor suggests.

Your doctor will likely advise you to bend and straighten your elbow, gentle clench and unclench your fist, and perform gentle pendulum movements to facilitate blood flow and improve range-of-motion.

Aside from stretches, general exercise improves overall joint health and recovery. Take a walk around the neighborhood, do a little yoga, or work in your garden. Exercise increases blood flow and oxygenation, which helps promote healing.

  1. Ease Back Into Activities Slowly

Movement and exercise is important for recovery, but take it slowly!

In the beginning, your joint will need rest. You shouldn’t go right back to kayaking down the Eno River a week after surgery.

Instead, start with the gentle stretches and motions suggested by your doctor. Think of these as a very slow warm-up period, while your muscles regain their strength and mobility.

Consider starting with very gentle stretches, to keep your muscles flexible and prevent stiff inflammation. Do some gentle exercises, rebuilding your muscles to prepare them for more robust workouts in a few weeks. Take these baby steps, and as the days pass, you will be able to do more and more activities as your shoulder heals, and you’ll work your way back up to full strength soon enough!

  1. Listen to Pain

Your body will tell you if you’re pushing too hard. In the beginning, even gentle stretches and physical therapy may cause soreness and slight pain. However, if you experience severe or intolerable pain, your body may be telling you that you’re risking re-injury.

Again — take things slowly. Slow, gentle stretches. Slow, gentle exercises. If you become fatigued or sore, take a break and rest. Let your shoulder heal; be patient with yourself as you regain strength and mobility. You will be able to return to sports when the pain and inflammation have healed.

  1. Practice Muscle Warm Ups and Cool Downs

If you’re an athlete, you may already know the importance of warming up and cooling down your muscles. If not, you’re about to learn!

A proper warm up should gentle prepare your muscles for exercise by gradually increasing heart rate, circulation, and range-of-motion. Stretching and warming up makes joints and muscles more limber and loose, increasing flexibility and decreasing the likelihood of strain or injury.

Cooling down after exercising allows for the gradual return to resting heart rate and blood pressure. It eases joints and muscles back into a resting status.

Once your injury is healed, it’ll still be important to warm up and cool down when exercising, to protect your shoulder against future injury.

  1. Build Stronger, More Flexible Muscles

One huge way to protect muscles and joints from injury is to strengthen the muscles that support your shoulder joint. A physical therapist will help you develop a specialized exercise program for building shoulder strength.

This is particularly important if you have a job that requires repetitive shoulder movements. This repetitive stress will cause wear-and-tear on your joints. By strengthening your shoulder, neck, and back muscles, you can protect against future injuries by keeping the joint stable and flexible.

Even if you have an athletic lifestyle, it’s still important to take the time to work on specific exercises for shoulder strength and mobility — to keep your joints strong and flexible enough to handle intense repetitive use.
Once your injury is healed, it’ll still be important to warm up and cool down when exercising, to protect your shoulder against future injury.

  1. Promote Joint Health with Supplements

Especially if you have an active lifestyle, it’s important to keep your joints in tip-top shape by providing them with the vitamins and minerals they need in order to stay strong. Even something as basic as drinking enough water can make a large impact in how your body responds to injury.

Certain supplements are particularly important when recovering from an injury. Chondroitin, for example, may allow for increased blood flow by heightening the permeability of the body’s tissues, allowing healing nutrients to reach deeper into the damaged parts of our joints. It even offers an analgesic (pain-relieving) effect when used. The Sports Injury Clinic highly recommends this supplement when healing from musculoskeletal injuries.

We’ve put together a list of supplements, vitamins, and minerals for protecting and promoting overall joint health. Some can be bought as capsules; others are simply important for including in your overall diet.

What are Dr. Wilson’s Shoulder Patients Saying?

  • “Dr. Wilson came into my room and treated me like I was the only patient he was seeing that entire day. He treated me as an individual. I could not have asked for a better experience.”
  • “The post-op care in this case has far exceeded my expectations based on prior experiences. Dr. Wilson and his team clearly care for their patients, and are experts in shoulder problems!
  • “I am healing nicely and hope to be golfing again when the weather improves.”

Raleigh’s Top Shoulder Doctor Can Get You Back in the Game

Not only has Dr. Wilson helped professional baseball players get back into the game — he’s an athlete, too! Passionate about snowboarding and lacrosse, Dr. Wilson treats shoulder injuries with great care and focus — because he knows exactly how important it is for his patients to get their hobbies back!

His care for his patients’ quality of life has earned him the Raleigh’s Compassionate Doctor Award, as well as Raleigh’s Top Doctor Award.

Dr. Wilson only uses surgery as a last resort, opting to try physical therapy, injections, lifestyle changes, and other recovery methods first. If you’re struggling with pain, let our team of Raleigh shoulder experts get you back in the game! Book an appointment online, or call us at 919-220-5255 to get started on your journey back to your favorite activities.