The amount of time you need to rest your shoulder before returning to pickleball after a rotator cuff injury will depend on the severity of your injury. In general, you should rest your shoulder until you can move it without pain and have regained full range of motion. This could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
Here is a general guideline for how long to rest your shoulder based on the severity of your injury:
- Mild rotator cuff strain: Rest for 1-2 weeks.
- Moderate rotator cuff strain: Rest for 2-4 weeks.
- Severe rotator cuff strain or tear: Rest for 4-6 weeks or more.
It is important to note that these are just general guidelines. Your doctor will be able to give you a more specific timeline based on your individual injury.
Once you have rested your shoulder for the appropriate amount of time, you can gradually start to return to pickleball. Begin by playing for short periods of time and gradually increase the duration and intensity of your play as your shoulder tolerates it.
Here are some tips for preventing rotator cuff injuries:
- Warm up before playing pickleball.
- Cool down after playing pickleball.
- Stretch your shoulder muscles regularly.
- Use proper technique when playing pickleball.
- Don’t overdo it. If you start to feel pain, stop playing and rest your shoulder.
If you have any concerns about your shoulder pain, see your doctor. They can help you determine the cause of your pain and recommend the best treatment plan for you.
Pickleball is a fast-growing racquet sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. It is loved by people of all ages, especially seniors, for its fun, social nature and low-impact exercise. However, like any racquet sport, pickleball does carry a risk of overuse injuries, especially to the rotator cuff in the shoulder.
If you’ve suffered a rotator cuff strain or tear from playing pickleball, you’ll need to give your shoulder adequate rest before returning to the court. Rushing back too soon risks aggravating the injury and causing longer recovery times. This article provides guidelines on how long to rest your shoulder based on the severity of your rotator cuff injury.
What is the Rotator Cuff?
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint and allow the arm to rotate. The muscles involved are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. These connect the upper arm bone to the shoulder blade.
Overhead racquet motions like serving and smashing in pickleball can overwork these muscles and cause tears or inflammation. This leads to pain, stiffness, and weakness in the shoulder. Resting the rotator cuff is crucial for it to heal properly after an injury.
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How Long to Rest Based on Injury Severity
The amount of rest time needed depends on whether you have a strain (tear of muscles or tendons) or full rotator cuff tear.
Mild Rotator Cuff Strain
- Symptoms: Slight pain during play, discomfort after playing.
- Rest time: 1-2 weeks off pickleball.
Take a break from pickleball for 7-14 days. Use anti-inflammatory medication and ice to manage pain. After resting, do rotator cuff exercises to strengthen muscles before returning to the court.
Moderate Rotator Cuff Strain
- Symptoms: Moderate pain during play, pain at rest, loss of some shoulder mobility.
- Rest time: 2-4 weeks off pickleball.
Rest the shoulder for 14-28 days minimum. See a physical therapist for exercises to improve mobility and strengthen rotator cuff muscles. Use ice, heat, and NSAIDs to control inflammation. Ease back into play gradually.
Severe Rotator Cuff Strain or Tear
- Symptoms: Severe shoulder pain and weakness, loss of mobility, arm weakness.
- Rest time: 4-6 weeks or longer off pickleball.
With a serious strain or full-thickness tear, you’ll need an extended break of 4-6+ weeks. See an orthopedic doctor to determine if you need surgery. If no surgery, wear a sling and do physical therapy to stabilize the shoulder. Return to play extremely gradually over several months.
Other Factors Affecting Recovery Time
The general rest timeline will vary based on:
- Your age: Older players may need more time to heal tendon tears.
- Activity level: More active players may require longer rest.
- Arm dominance: Dominant arm injuries take longer to recover.
- Overall health: Those with diabetes, obesity, or arthritis may have slower healing.
- Injury history: Previous rotator cuff tears mean longer recovery periods.
Consult with your doctor to determine the ideal rest and recovery time for your specific injury situation. Don’t try to rush back too quickly.
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Signs You’re Ready to Return to Pickleball
Once you’ve rested for the recommended time, how can you tell if your shoulder is ready for pickleball? Use these indicators:
- Full range of motion without pain
- No tenderness in rotator cuff
- Ability to lift arm overhead without discomfort
- Strength returned to shoulder and arm
- Can swing paddle without pain
- Can serve and volley without shoulder pain
If you meet these criteria, start back slowly. Play for shorter durations and avoid aggressive smashing until your shoulder adapts. Stop immediately if you feel any pain. Gradually build back up to your normal skill level.
Preventing Rotator Cuff Injuries in Pickleball
To help avoid overuse shoulder injuries when playing pickleball:
- Warm up shoulders thoroughly before play
- Use proper technique when serving and volleying
- Take breaks during long sessions
- Don’t overdo smashes and aggressive shots
- Maintain shoulder flexibility
- Strengthen rotator cuff muscles
- Use paddles sized for your height and ability
- Wear shoulder supports if needed
- Ice shoulders after intense play
Resting an injured rotator cuff is vital for healing, but prevention is the best medicine. Take time to recover fully, then implement proactive measures to protect your shoulders so you can enjoy pickleball safely.
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When to See a Doctor
See your physician promptly if you have:
- Severe or worsening shoulder pain
- Inability to lift your arm over your head
- Noticeable weakness in shoulder or arm
- Swelling around the shoulder joint
- Pain at night that disrupts sleep
A sports medicine doctor can diagnose the severity of the injury, provide pain management, and design a treatment program tailored to your needs. Physical therapy is often prescribed to aid recovery. Surgery may be an option for large tears.
The recovery timeline for returning to pickleball after a rotator cuff injury varies from a few weeks to several months depending on the severity of the strain or tear. Healing also depends on your age, activity level, and overall health. Resting the shoulder adequately gives the rotator cuff the best chance to heal properly. Work closely with your doctor to determine when you can safely return to playing your favorite sport. With proper treatment and prevention methods, you can get back on the court while avoiding re-injury.