Can You Run (and Work Out) With a Sprained Shoulder?

Can You Run (and Work Out) With a Sprained Shoulder?

If you have a sprained or injured shoulder, you've probably come to terms with having to adjust your workouts for the foreseeable future. To protect your body and health, it's in your best interest to err on the side of caution. But you're likely still asking yourself, "can I run with a sprained shoulder?".

In short, yes, as long as it doesn't hurt. You may have to adjust your stride in order to minimize twisting of the upper body. But when you have a shoulder injury, most cardio and lower-body exercises are still safe to perform.

Now, that's a very brief explanation of exercising safely after a shoulder injury. In this article, we'll dive into everything you need to know to avoid worsening your injury while jogging. Running is a great way to stay fit while recovering, but make sure you're doing it right!

Can I Run With a Sprained Shoulder?

Yes! In fact, jogging is one of the safest forms of exercise to do while nursing a shoulder injury.

Jogging and running put little to no pressure on the shoulder. There's also less risk of injury that could worsen a sprain. Unless you're jogging on a particularly rocky path, you're unlikely to fall and further injure your shoulders.

Walking and jogging are the exercises your doctor will likely recommend first after a strain. Cardio is great for patients recovering from injuries: it seeks to strengthen your endurance, not your muscles.

That said, if your shoulder is injured, other forms of cardio may not be feasible. An elliptical or bike could cause your shoulders to move in a way that could exacerbate the sprain. Rowing machines are out of the question.

Therefore, jogging is the least risky exercise you can do after an injury. Whether you use a treadmill or run outdoors, you can keep yourself in shape during the recovery.

How Do I Exercise With a Sprained Shoulder?

So, jogging is in and biking is out. But what other exercises are safe to do with a sprained shoulder? Luckily, you're not as limited as you may think.

When you injure your shoulder, it could take weeks to heal completely. Though you may be tempted to only do cardio in that time, you should also incorporate exercises that will help you maintain strength and mobility.

First of all, you can still devote yourself to leg day. Squats, leg presses, and hip abductions are all fair game when you have a sprained shoulder. You can still even incorporate weights and resistance bands.

Second, swimming is a great workout when you need to rest a shoulder. Of course, avoid any strokes that cause you pain or over-extend the shoulder. But even half an hour of doggy-paddling around a pool can help ease your pain.

Even though a shoulder injury can be painful, exercising through one doesn't have to be. You'll have to cut out your shoulder presses for a while, but that's no big change. Having a shoulder injury doesn't mean you have to give up your active lifestyle.

Stretching Safely With a Sprained Shoulder

When your shoulder is injured, it's important to stretch the muscles gently every day. However, not all stretches and motions are suitable for those with a sprain.

Avoid almost any motion that involves stretching your arm above your head. This can cause undue stress on the muscles and tendons in your shoulder and could exacerbate the injury. Even if you don't feel pain while performing them, avoid stretches that put weight or stress on the shoulder.

Here are three stretches that will help you maintain flexibility and mobility:

Crossing an arm across your chest and holding it in place is great for keeping your muscles loose. Make sure you keep your entire arm in line with your shoulders. Hold your arm with the opposite hand, striving to put your wrist past the opposite shoulder.

Pendulum exercises are where you lean against a table or counter with one arm, and let the other arm hang loose. You then use the weight of your body to swing your loose arm back and forth, putting it through its full range of motion. This stretch is easy on your shoulders but very effective. 

Rotations can be done by holding a yardstick vertically in front of you with both hands. Turn the yardstick from side to side, until it is perpendicular to its original position. Repeat, turning the yardstick to the opposite side. 

Stretch gently, and resist the urge to work through the pain. A sprain may just feel like regular soreness, but you must treat it differently. Pushing yourself too far while injured could make the sprain worse, and could lead to permanent injury.

Remember that you are not trying to challenge yourself while stretching. Prioritize maintenance overgrowth or improvement. Go easy on yourself!

Jogging Safely

You may not need to make any large adjustments to your cardio routine. Like we talked about earlier, jogging is well-suited to those with shoulder injuries. But there are a few things to keep in mind.

If it hurts, stop. That's rule zero. If any sort of exercise causes pain in the injured area, stop immediately.

When jogging, this is unlikely to happen, unless you're a particularly vigorous arm-pumper. If it does, though, adjust your gait as needed. You may have to consciously make yourself hold your arms close to your core.

Can you run with a shoulder sling? Absolutely, and there's no harm in doing so. For more severe injuries or dislocations, a shoulder sling could be vital.

A shoulder sling will keep your arm in a safe position, and some models will hold your arm close to the chest. This negates the chance of jostling your muscles too much or exacerbating the sprain.

However, if your injury is mild to moderate, you'll probably get by just fine without a shoulder sling. Try jogging unencumbered first, then decide whether or not you need that extra support.

Safe Strength Training

You may think that you have to swear off all upper-body exercise until your shoulder is healed. But that's not true! Though you must approach them with caution, there are a few strength-building exercises that are safe to do with a sprained shoulder.

Just like when stretching, approach these exercises with a maintenance mindset. You're not looking to challenge yourself, just to keep the muscles active and healthy. 

Wall push-ups are a great way to exercise your upper body without exacerbating shoulder pain. Position yourself with your arms outstretched, palms against the wall, and maintain your balance as you bend your arms and sink toward the wall. These vertical push-ups put little to no weight on your shoulder muscles, but take them through their whole range of motion.

Use lightweight dumbbells to perform gentle curls and lifts. You won't be able to do a chest fly or over-the-head triceps dips, but a few easy bicep curls are great. Try and stick to weights lower than 10lb to protect your shoulder.

Isometric exercises help build strength in your arms without putting pressure on your shoulders.

Arm elevations can work your shoulder muscles without overextending them. Simply stand in place and lift your arms to the side until they are parallel to the floor. You'll find that these arm lifts are a great strength-builder without requiring any weights or resistance bands! 

If any exercise causes you pain, stop immediately. Oftentimes pain is a sign that something has been going wrong for a while, so take it seriously. Especially when recovering from a sprain, don't overexert yourself. 

Importance of Rest Days

You may be tempted to try and exercise every day to make up for your limitation. Especially as your shoulder begins to feel better, you may find a burst of motivation. But don't give in!

Allow yourself days to rest your body. Working too hard prolongs the healing process, and can exacerbate your injury.

Without rest days, you're also susceptible to overtraining injuries. Your muscles can only do so much work before they get overtired. Overtired muscles cannot properly support your tendons and ligaments, and your body turns against you.

When your shoulder begins to heal, ease into your regular routine. Your sprained shoulder will feel sore more easily. When you feel sore, rest for 24-48 hours to avoid possibly exacerbating the shoulder.

Recovery requires letting yourself, well, recover. Your body needs a balance between active days and rest days. Don't overwork yourself or your shoulder.

When to Use Ice

You know that you should ice an injury, but when? What purpose does ice serve in the healing process?

If you're already starting to exercise after your injury, you probably don't need ice. Ice and cold temperatures are best when an injury is fresh—24-48 hours old.

Ice will minimize swelling by constricting blood vessels in the affected area. This also helps stave off some pain and reduces bleeding into the surrounding tissues.

Ice comes in handy when an injury is critical but doesn't help much in the later stages of the recovery process. Unless the sprain has been twinged or worsened in some way, you're probably better off using heat.

If you experience any acute pain while exercising, don't hesitate to set some ice on it. Only let the ice sit on the affected area for ten minutes at a time. This will make the healing process more efficient, and still allow for normal blood flow in the shoulder.

When to Use Heat

If you're easing back into your exercise routine after injury, you may feel sore all the time. It's tempting to slap on a heating pad and take an Advil every time, but using heat at opportune times can actually speed up your recovery.

Heat is best for sore and stiff muscles. If the injury is still fresh—from within the last 24-72 hours—don't put heat on it. Heat can increase swelling and can make a sprain look worse than it actually is.

Use heat liberally once the swelling has subsided in the shoulder. If a few days have passed and your shoulder is still hurting, go ahead and start applying steady heat. This will help relax and loosen up the muscles and increase blood flow to the injured area.

When you start exercising again, you'll feel increased soreness in all your body. Don't hesitate to apply a heating pad to your shoulder. Even if you've only been doing some light jogging, exercising after an injury can make a sprain feel sore.

So unless you sprained your shoulder yesterday, feel free to slap on a heating pad. You'll feel comfortable and your muscles will relax.

Always Check With Your Doctor First

Though this article is full of good advice, we aren't doctors. Always check with your doctor or trainer when you experience a sprain or other shoulder injury. They're the only ones who can give you accurate, personal advice based on your medical history.

Discuss with your doctor what steps you need to take to exercise safely. They may rule out certain exercises or stretches due to the nature of your injury. Trust that your medical professional has your best interests at heart, and knows more than an online article.

Don't Let a Sprain Stop You in Your Tracks

We hope you're no longer asking yourself "can I run with a sprained shoulder?" after reading this article. Modified exercise is perfectly safe after a shoulder injury, and can in fact ease the healing process. You can still live your life after an injury!

Whether you need a shoulder brace or just some good advice, check us out at Power Rebound. We sell professional braces, supports, and compression wraps and run an informative blog. Read through some of our other articles, and don't hesitate to shoot us a message if you have any questions.


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