How to Workout with a Torn Rotator Cuff

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A rotator cuff is made up of tendons and can tear or become inflammed from overuse, aging and by having an accident. It's also common for body builders or weight trainers to have torn rotator cuffs. This is usually due to heavy lifting, improper form and over training.


For those of you who don't know where it is it's in the shoulder. We use our rotator cuff to put clothes on and almost everything we do. So, if it gets torn we can be quite limited physically.

  • Yes, if you have a torn rotator cuff you will be limited in what you can do in your workout as well as other everyday tasks. However, if you are a person dedicated to keeping fit there's no way you want to just wait it out. I know because I've been there. I have been an avid weight trainer for over 20 years! And yes I've had a torn rotator.

    The first step to working out with a torn rotator is to purpose in your heart that you can work around it. Yes, it embarrassing to do front or side lateral raises with 5 pound dumb bells, but that is exactly what needs to happen. This is the only way to keep muscles from becoming stiff and not responding as they should.

  • You will need to do a lot of stretching as well to keep full range of motion. You will know when to stop because it will hurt BAD! Do not try to push through the pain if you do your injury will take longer to heal. This is no time for the no pain no gain kind of thinking. I know how body builders think and how they are always pushing through pain, but you can't do it with a torn rotator cuff. On second thought, you can, but you'll pay a big price!

  • This is where it gets tricky. There will be some exercises that use the shoulders that you will be able to do and others you won't, it depends on where your tear is. What you have to do is try it with very little weight and if it hurts BACK OFF! Do something else. It will be hard to even reach out and grab a weight with that arm so you reach out with the good arm and place it in the other hand. There are little tricks like this you learn to do so that you can still workout.

  • When I had my torn rotator cuff I couldn't put my coat on with that arm, but I could do curls. I couldn't brush my teeth with it either, but I could do lat pulls. It's pretty crazy how it works! Yes, I had to use a lot less weight, but I could do it and it kept me from losing all mobility whatsoever because I was willing to do what I could.

    You have the entire lower body you can focus on maybe it's a good time to change up your routine anyway. You can do cardio, legs and abs. If you keep a right mindset and not give up it's amazing how fit you can still be even though you have an injury and have to work around it.

  • The last step that will help as much or more than anything to still be able to workout with a torn rotator cuff is massage. You can do it yourself too, I did. I could tell the difference when I did it and when I didn't, so I started doing it every day sometimes several times a day.

    It took my rotator cuff 6 months to heal I lost a good bit of strength, but I managed to get it all back. I read up on how to treat it and tweaked my workout to a place where it was doable.

    So, if you're down and out with this painful injury don't stay that way go to the gym! You can still workout and heal at the same time.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always warm up and stretch before weight training
  • Do not make quick movements be cautious
  • Keep the shoulder warm at all times
  • Give it adequate rest
  • Stop if there's pain

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  • Photo Credit Flickr.com
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