Whether you’ve suffered an injury, or you’ve had your mobility compromised, it can be difficult to rebuild the strength and range of motion (ROM) of your arms. Healing alone can take weeks, even months, and sometimes ineffective training after an incident can lead to long-lasting loss of muscle and strength.
Before you begin to strengthen, speak with your medical practitioner and be certain the injury is healed. We are often taught to power through the pain, but we are not often shown what that means for our body when it isn’t fully healed. Tearing new muscle over an injury can cause pain and damage to the new tissue, which leads to a longer period without full function.
So, while you are still in the healing process, your MO will either recommend complete rest, or they will give you some practical ways to improve your prognosis. Methods can include heat on stiff muscles, or ice on tender, swollen ones. KT tape may also be employed to improve the pain of daily activity and alleviate stress in specific areas.
Knowing where to start to improve shoulder function, discomfort, or limited range of motion is a frequently asked question, so the purpose of this post is to help understand the full range of motion available in the shoulder so that the reader can take this information and apply therapeutically in a way to support discrepancies. If the range of motion is restricted by discomfort or weakness, lessen the intensity and work under that threshold with low to zero weight or resistance, and let that be the starting point. If ROM is restricted by muscle tension, consider all ranges of motion of the shoulder, and apply a stretching technique where indicated.
Strengthening and Stretching techniques can be applied to any range of motion and descriptions will be found in Step 3.
Step 1: Assessment
Once you are ready to re-engage your muscles, an MO can assess the tissues being affected by your injury and they can recommend tests to pinpoint the problem(s). They should ask about your history to discover any repeat injuries or dysfunction. They should also ask you about your daily routines and what sorts of triggers cause you discomfort or pain.
- They will observe your arms in various positions and movements to determine if there are impingements, scar tissue, or other lingering effects. Often numerous muscles are involved for any particular action, work with your MO to assess the damage and residual symptoms so that your treatment plan can incorporate the various tissues involved.
There are six key Ranges of Motion (ROM) in the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint) to take into consideration as you target specific areas of the arms. Your MO will be able to show you the proper technique for each muscle group but do consider these actions when deciding to strengthen the shoulders globally.
Let’s start with Flexion and Extension – If there is discomfort, a reminder to reduce the range of motion or weight/resistance so that work is done under the pain threshold. If the shoulder can not move into full extension or full flexion, ensure weight/resistance is low to improve strengthening and follow with a stretch after the full strengthening cycle. Utilize the other arm to support a gentle stretch of the arm in the range of motion of restriction. This theory can be utilized in any ROM, strengthen first, then stretch. Only hold static stretches when telling the body it can relax and no longer needs to perform as in: at end of a workout or end of the day. Dynamic stretches are important in the interim, review Step 3 for more information about these stretching techniques
Step 2: Treatment
Your MO will be able to perform manual adjustments and massage with you during your visit AND they will be able to recommend exercises at home. Pay attention to the subtle corrections to your alignment and posture and be willing to ask questions!
Regardless of the site of weakness, the emphasis needs to be on slow, smooth movement through a full range of motion. Though you may be targeting different muscles, you want to encourage proper form and even development of the muscles. It is important to exhale on the action when strengthening, utilizing the exhale as a driving force to complete an action.
Exercises for the forearms will still engage the biceps and triceps and can include standing dumbbell curls and hammer curls, along with tricep extensions. Before you begin, your MO will want to take note of your starting point for ROM and strength, to later gauge your progression.
Step 3: Repeat
There can be hesitation about following up with your MO once the first treatment is complete, but it’s important to observe and report back on what improvements you’re seeing (or not seeing) and which exercises you’ve kept up with.
Regardless of where you are in your healing and strengthening process, an MO can guide you because they know how to assess for specific injuries or dysfunctions and what actions to prescribe.
For further information on how to perform these exercises do not hesitate to reach out!