How to Treat Shoulder Pain in a Pitcher
Shoulder pain is a fairly common issue with baseball and softball pitchers, who rely on their shoulder muscles extensively to send the ball over home plate. The forceful and repetitive motion can cause these muscles to become inflamed, resulting in discomfort. Young pitchers with weak and immature muscles may also be more prone to pain because of instability in the shoulders. However, there are several options that can help treat existing pain and prevent future flareups.
Put ice on the shoulder to ease immediate symptoms. Apply ice packs three to four times per day for 20 minutes at a time to the affected area. This will help with any inflammation, as well as reduce swelling and pain. Use medications like ibuprofen and naproxen to further ease pain and help reduce any swelling or inflammation.
Take time off during the year to allow recovery for muscles and tissues in the shoulder. Players who pitch year-round are more likely to experience shoulder pain than those who have recovery periods throughout the year. In fact, pitching without any breaks or off-seasons can even lead to growth plate injuries in young players. The muscles and bones are still forming in young pitchers, and overusing the shoulder muscles can result in pain and damage to these tissues.
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Do range-of-motion exercises to improve joint mobility and reduce pain in the shoulders. These exercises are considered passive and therapeutic, so they work well for individuals coming off a shoulder injury. Do a pendulum exercise by lying face down on a bench or bed, with the injured shoulder and arm able to swing freely to the side. Drop the shoulder blade and relax the muscles, then slowly swing your arm forward and back. Another range-of-motion exercise to try is swinging arm circles. Stand and hold the back of a chair with your uninjured arm. Bend at the waist and drop your shoulder down, relaxing it and letting it hang freely. Swing your arm in small circles, using body motion to initiate the movement. For each exercise, start with 15- to 30-second durations, then increase to three to five minutes as pain is reduced and mobility is improved.
Strength train to build and develop stronger shoulder muscles, which will increase shoulder stability and reduce your risk for injury. Don’t aggravate the condition with workouts that are too intense; start slow with the passive exercises described previously before trying more challenging exercises. When you are pain-free, do pushups to work your shoulders and upper back. Increase the challenge with plyo pushups, which will give your shoulders an even greater workout. Start in standard pushup position, then lower almost to the floor. Push up explosively and fully extend the arms, landing with hands shoulder-width apart. Use a resistance band for face pulls. Start in a standing position with the band secured a few feet from you. Extend your arms to grasp the band so it is nearly taut, then bring your hands toward your face, driving your elbows out to the sides and bringing your shoulder blades together.
Consult your physician if the pain worsens or continues for more than seven days.
Suzy Kerr graduated from Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia. She completed her Master's degree in Nutrition Sciences, also at the University of Georgia. Suzy has been a successful health, fitness and nutrition writer for more than 10 years, and has been published in various print and online publications.