Only about 1-2% of the general population experiences shoulder dislocation. That said, you’re at greater risk if you're an athlete.
Shoulder instability usually affects athletes who exert powerful forces on their shoulders. Pitchers, for instance, are prone to this injury. You’re also at risk for shoulder instability if you play tennis, swing a bat, or perform other high-velocity motions with your arms.
At Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, our founder, David Lintner, MD, is a leader in orthopedic sports medicine, specializing in preventing, treating, and rehabbing sports injuries in athletes of all ages. At our Kingwood and Houston, Texas, locations, we offer shoulder rehabilitation programs.
So, how can you change your habits to build strong, stable shoulder joints? The following are some tips.
1. Stretch and strengthen the supporting muscles
You have to increase your flexibility as well as your strength. When flexible, you can quickly adjust to unexpected pressures and forces that could dislocate your shoulder or tear key tendons or muscles.
All training should target the muscle groups controlling your shoulder’s stability and range of motion. That includes the following:
- Deltoids (front, back, and over the shoulder)
- Trapezius muscles (upper back)
- Rhomboid muscles (upper back)
- Teres muscles (supporting the shoulder joint)
- Supraspinatus (supporting the shoulder joint)
- Infraspinatus (supporting the shoulder joint)
- Subscapularis (front of shoulder)
- Biceps (front of upper arm)
- Triceps (back of upper arm)
A program that targets the muscles relevant to your shoulder joint can be found here. Repeat your shoulder-conditioning exercises 2-3 times a week to maintain your results.
2. Warm-up and cool down
When you're in the middle of a season, your coach puts you through warm-up as part of your training or pre-game prep. But when you’re on your own, you may be tempted to skip this step. After all, you have the pressure of school, work, and social life in addition to your shoulder exercises.
When you take time to do gentle movements that prime your shoulder joint, you increase the blood flow into the supporting muscles. Your blood vessels dilate to accommodate the extra flow, which brings more oxygen and nutrients into your muscles.
Warm up for at least 5-10 minutes. In addition to gently moving and stretching your shoulder, get your whole body moving to speed up circulation.
The warm-ups also warm your muscle tissue, so it’s more flexible and less likely to be injured. Cool-downs are also important. When you stop exercising too quickly, you risk becoming lightheaded. Cool-downs also encourage the blood to circulate throughout your entire body.
3. Keep breathing and focus on form
Don’t rush your training. All strengthening and stretching exercises should utilize perfect form to avoid injury. That means concentrating on what you’re doing. If you’re not currently working with a coach, consult our medical team.
Use slow movements with weights to get maximal benefits. Performing your reps too quickly risks using momentum to do the job your muscles should be doing.
Also, don’t forget to breathe correctly and consistently. When you exert yourself, you may be tempted to hold your breath. Instead, breathe slowly in through your nose during the down-phase of a movement and exhale through your mouth during moments of exertion.
4. Don’t train every day
Overtraining is worse for your body than under-training. When you tax your muscles, you create microscopic tears in the tissue.
Leave at least 48 hours between training sessions. That gives your muscles time to repair themselves.
The shoulders’ extreme mobility puts them at constant risk of injury. Learn more about how to keep your shoulders safe by contacting our friendly and knowledgeable staff at the nearest office by phone or the online form.
Special message: If you, your child or teen currently has shoulder pain or shoulder instability and you live far from Houston, consider sending your MRI to Dr. Lintner for a second opinion.