11 Tips From Rehab Pros To Prevent Re-Injuring Your Pickleball Shoulder After Rotator Cuff Recovery

11 Tips From Rehab Pros To Prevent Re-Injuring Your Pickleball Shoulder After Rotator Cuff Recovery

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Pickleball is a fun and engaging sport, but it can also put a lot of strain on your shoulders, especially if you have a history of rotator cuff injuries. To help you prevent re-injuring your shoulder after rotator cuff recovery, here are 11 tips from rehab professionals:

  1. Warm Up and Cool Down: Always warm up your muscles before playing pickleball and cool down afterward. This helps prepare your muscles for activity and reduces the risk of injury.
  2. Proper Technique: Ensure you’re using proper technique when hitting the pickleball. Improper form can put excessive strain on your shoulder joint and increase the risk of injury.
  3. Strengthen Your Rotator Cuff: Engage in regular exercises to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles. These muscles support your shoulder joint and help prevent injuries.
  4. Stretch Regularly: Stretching helps maintain flexibility and range of motion in your shoulder joint, reducing the risk of strains and tears.
  5. Listen to Your Body: Don’t push yourself too hard, especially if you’re feeling any discomfort or pain in your shoulder. Take breaks when needed and gradually increase your activity level.
  6. Use Proper Equipment: Choose a pickleball paddle that is the right weight and size for you. An ill-fitting paddle can put unnecessary strain on your shoulder.
  7. Avoid Overuse: Limit your pickleball playing time to avoid overuse injuries. Give your shoulder time to rest and recover between sessions.
  8. Ice and Heat Therapy: Use ice to reduce inflammation and pain after playing, and heat therapy to improve blood flow and promote healing.
  9. Consult a Physical Therapist: Work with a physical therapist to develop a personalized exercise and rehabilitation program tailored to your needs and injury history.
  10. Address Underlying Issues: Address any underlying issues that may contribute to shoulder injuries, such as muscle imbalances or postural problems.
  11. Seek Professional Help: If you experience any shoulder pain or discomfort, consult a doctor or physical therapist to rule out any serious injuries and receive proper guidance.

Remember, prevention is key to avoiding re-injury. By following these tips and listening to your body, you can continue enjoying pickleball while keeping your shoulders healthy and strong.

Pickleball is all the rage these days among recreational and competitive players of all ages. However, the quick start-stop motions and overhead swings in pickleball can take a toll on your shoulders. This is especially true if you have a history of rotator cuff injuries.

The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. Rotator cuff tears or strains are common shoulder injuries in pickleball players. They cause pain, weakness, and limited mobility in the shoulder.

Proper rehabilitation and physical therapy are crucial after a rotator cuff injury. But the recovery doesn’t stop after rehab ends. You need to take precautions to prevent re-injuring your shoulder when returning to pickleball play.

To help you keep that pickleball pop without risking repeat damage, here are 11 tips from rehabilitation professionals:

1. Warm Up and Cool Down

Warming up your shoulder muscles before play and cooling down afterwards are must-dos.

Warming up increases blood flow, loosens the muscles and joints, and prepares the tissues for activity ahead. This reduces your risk of strains and tears.

Cooling down allows your heart rate and breathing to gradually return to normal. It also helps flush out waste products like lactic acid from exercise.

For your shoulder, do gentle range of motion exercises and arm circles before play. Afterward, do some light static stretches for the rotator cuff and shoulder muscles.

Action Step: Commit 5-10 minutes for warm up and cool down.

2. Mind Your Technique

Proper swing and stroke technique is crucial to avoiding shoulder irritation and injury in pickleball. Poor mechanics add strain and friction to the joint.

Pay attention to:

  • Avoid overextending your reach on shots
  • Don’t open your shoulder too much on forehand strokes
  • Don’t swing your arm across your body on backhands
  • Use your core and legs to generate power, not just your shoulder
  • Let your arm relax and swing free; don’t tense up

If needed, get some coaching on technique or film yourself to check your form.

Action Step: Analyze and tweak your swing mechanics if needed.

3. Strengthen Your Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff muscles stabilize the shoulder joint through its movements. Weak cuff muscles are linked to higher injury risks.

After rehab, keep strengthening those muscles with resistance bands and lightweight dumbbells. Do external and internal rotation exercises at least 2-3 times per week.

Also work on scapular stability by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Do rowing motions and use an exercise ball against the wall to open up the chest and strengthen the upper back.

Action Step: Do rotator cuff and scapular exercises 2-3x a week.

4. Stretch Regularly

Flexibility allows greater freedom and range of motion in the shoulder joint so you can swing and stroke comfortably. Lack of flexibility stresses the muscles and tendons.

At least 3-4 times per week, gently stretch the muscles around the shoulder:

  • Pectorals
  • Deltoids
  • Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Trapezius

Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds. Stretch after playing and workouts, when muscles are warm.

Action Step: Stretch major shoulder muscles 3-4 times per week.

5. Listen to Your Body

Pay attention to any shoulder discomfort, stiffness, weakness, or pain during or after playing. This feedback helps you avoid overexertion or re-injury.

Take breaks as needed during play if you feel shoulder strain. Ice after play if you have pain or swelling.

Don’t try to push through moderate to severe shoulder pain. Consult your doctor or physical therapist if it persists.

Action Step: Take breaks or stop if you have shoulder pain.

6. Choose the Right Pickleball Gear

Using proper pickleball equipment tailored to you reduces injury risks. Some key considerations:

Paddle: Choose a lightweight paddle around 7.2 to 7.6 ounces. Overhead strokes with a heavy paddle add shoulder strain. Opt for a grip size that allows a relaxed hold.

Balls: Indoor balls have less bounce than outdoor ones. Using outdoor balls indoors forces harder shoulder-taxing strokes to counter the high bounces.

Shoes: Cushioned cross trainers provide support for quick side-to-side movements and lunging.

Proper gear improves comfort and reduces exertion on your shoulders. Consult pickleball pros for the best choices.

Action Step: Get properly fitted pickleball gear: paddle, balls, and shoes.

7. Avoid Shoulder Overuse

The repetitive overhead motions in pickleball can inflame tendons in the shoulder joint. It’s crucial to avoid overusing your shoulders.

Space out your pickleball sessions over the week and limit session length. Take regular breaks during long sessions to rest your shoulder.

Cross-train with low-impact activities like cycling, swimming, or yoga on off days to maintain fitness while giving your shoulder a break.

Action Step: Limit pickleball sessions to avoid overuse.

8. Know When to Use Ice vs. Heat

Icing reduces inflammation, helps numb pain, and constricts blood vessels after hard play. It’s ideal for acute shoulder soreness.

Heat boosts circulation, loosens tissues, and reduces chronic stiffness. Use it before activity or exercise.

Use ice packs for 10-15 minutes after pickleball play when your shoulder is sore. Use a heat pack before play or strength training.

Action Step: Use ice after pickleball play and heat before activity.

9. Get Some Physical Therapy

Consulting a physical therapist, even periodically, helps ensure you recover properly and avoid complications or re-injury.

A physical therapist can analyze your swing, posture, and limb biomechanics. They’ll correct any issues and develop a personalized program to build strength and flexibility.

Don’t wait until you have shoulder pain again to see one. Schedule periodic maintenance visits for assessment and tune-ups.

Action Step: See a physical therapist for swing analysis and preventive exercise programs.

10. Address Contributing Factors

Sometimes underlying issues like posture problems, muscle imbalances, and poor swing mechanics contribute to shoulder injuries.

For example, slouched posture causes the head to jut forward, stressing the shoulder joint. Weak back muscles also affect posture and shoulder stability.

Identifying and addressing these factors improves shoulder function and reduces future risks. Physical therapists can help spot and correct such issues.

Action Step: Work with a physical therapist to assess contributing factors.

11. See Your Doctor If Pain Persists

See your doctor if you have persistent shoulder discomfort or loss of strength after playing pickleball. Don’t ignore signals something’s wrong.

Your doctor can check for partial rotator cuff tears, impingement syndrome, tendinitis, bursitis, and other issues. Early diagnosis prevents complications.

You may need diagnostic imaging, medication, injections, or surgery if rest and physical therapy don’t resolve severe or prolonged shoulder problems.

Action Step: Consult your doctor if shoulder pain persists after pickleball play.

Playing pickleball after rotator cuff recovery requires some care and prevention measures. But with a little diligence, you can keep enjoying this fun paddle sport for years to come.

Use these tips from rehab pros to warm up properly, strengthen your shoulder, get your technique dialed in, choose the right gear, and know when to seek help. Here’s to keeping that pickleball pop!

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1 thought on “11 Tips From Rehab Pros To Prevent Re-Injuring Your Pickleball Shoulder After Rotator Cuff Recovery”

  1. Thank you for sharing these invaluable tips! As a passionate pickleball player, I’ve occasionally felt strains in my shoulders, and your advice about proper warm-up and cooldown routines has made a significant difference. I hadn’t considered the impact of gear on shoulder health before, so your recommendations on paddle weight and grip size are incredibly helpful. I appreciate your detailed approach, and I’ll definitely be incorporating these strategies into my game. Here’s to injury-free pickleball matches!

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