Here are 6 tips to keep your shoulders healthy:
1. Put MORE time and effort into the warm-up. We often times get so excited about the upcoming WOD that we become impatient and apathetic to proper shoulder preparation. Don’t get caught up in dreams of WOD dominance until you’re ready – and being truly “ready” may come only after you’ve done more of a warm-up than you think you need. If the standard warm-up at your box is not adequate, let them know. Either way, don’t short-change your warm up!
2. Scale, scale, scale… and scale again. I would make an educated presumption that pride is the #1 cause of most long-term CrossFit injuries. Our commitment to self-improvement often needs to trump our commitment to beat the guy next to us. In other words, control your inner GI-Joe (or Jane) and modify the workout to make it safe. The experienced athletes may know how to scale themselves appropriately. Others can trust the trainers. In either case, do NOT be the guy (or girl) that ignores the trainer’s advice to take it down a notch. They obviously see something you don’t!
3. Learn “Good” vs. “Bad” Pain. CrossFit is pain…wonderful, disgusting, glorious, gut-wrenching pain. So if every WOD brings discomfort, how do we distinguish between the desired and the undesired types of hurt? A relatively simple way to do so may be in the words used to describe the discomfort. Words like hot, sore, or tight may not be cause for alarm unless the pain becomes chronic and localized. Words like throbbing, excruciating, sharp, or stinging might put up a red flag for undesired damage. Limited ROM in the shoulder is also an indicator of bad juju. In the end, experience, education, and effective communication between athlete and trainer are paramount for this guideline to be met.
4. Take time to recover. Perhaps one of the most common catalysts for small-pain turned long-term-injury is too much, too fast. Don’t forget that the shoulder area is comprised of more than a half-dozen muscles. Each will need time to heal/recover after fibrous tear occurs. Your body needs time to repair after every WOD, even more-so when you’ve tweaked something.
5. Don’t be afraid of the doctor. If you’ve had prolonged pain (in general or just at a certain point throughout your range of motion), go see a professional. Don’t be afraid to hear the words, X-ray, Ultrasound, MRI, or Arthrogram. Yes, it can be a nuisance – but never forget the “better to be safe than sorry” chestnut. As most know, having to step away from CrossFit due to injury is exponentially more of a “nuisance” than seeing the ol’ doc.
6. Do your homework. No, I’m not referring to digging into bodybuilding.com to learn about how an amateur body builder dealt with his… delt. What I mean is, follow through with rehabilitation and other aspects of the get-better process (naproxen, cryotherapy, ROM stretching, low-resistance exercise, etc.). It’s easy to think about the shoulder injury only around WOD time. Don’t go home and forget about the injury – address it. You take pride in doing the “Rx” during the WOD – so why not follow through with what the doctor prescribes?!