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How to Recover From a Bodybuilding Shoulder Injury

By Melissa Sabo

A study from the "American Journal of Sports Medicine" in 2010 showed that injuries from all types of weight training, including body building, have been estimated to be over 970,000 from 1990 to 2007 and have increased as more people have been participating in exercises that involve using weights. Shoulder injuries are a common impairment associated with bodybuilding, and understanding how to recuperate after shoulder damage will help you to reduce your pain and get you working toward your bodybuilding goals again.

  1. Rest your shoulder after a shoulder injury to protect the shoulder muscle girdle and reduce the risk for further damage. Avoid holding your arm completely still or putting it in a sling unless directed by a physician as this will cause your shoulder to tighten and add to your recovery time. Continue to use your arm during daily activity, but only as much as you can without incurring additional pain. Increase your activity level and intensity slowly, adding bodybuilding training only after you can do all regular activities without any pain.

  2. Apply ice for the first 24 to 48 hours after your initial injury or to address any swelling as you recover, using it for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. After the initial period, use a heating pad on your shoulder for 15 minutes up to four times per day to reduce your pain and increase circulation to your injured shoulder components. Avoid using heat for longer than 15 minutes at a time as this can encourage inflammation. Talk with your health care professional to guide you in selecting an anti-inflammatory analgesic, such as naproxen or ibuprofen to help control your pain and reduce inflammation.

  3. See your doctor if you have any severe pain that limits your movement or if you have persistent pain, as you may need further intervention such as physical therapy or surgery. Introduce shoulder exercises slowly, opting for performing your previous exercises with little or no weight initially to allow you to strengthen your muscles without causing undue pain. Gradually add more weight as you are able, as long as you do not experience significant or lasting pain after your workout, expecting that it can take two to three months to be able to return to your prior level of intensity, or longer if you have a significant injury.

  4. Tip

    Consult with your physician prior to starting any exercise program after an injury.


    Never exercise your shoulder if you are in pain.

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