By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
According to conservative estimates, in 2008, nearly two million people visited a doctor because of rotator cuff injuries, within the United States. Some estimates claim higher numbers and it makes one wonder about the global statistics. The rotator cuff, which provides stability to the shoulder, is particularly vulnerable to injuries in sports like swimming, kayaking, tennis, and baseball.
A full or partially torn rotator cuff injury may result in surgery to reduce symptoms like sharp pain and a limited range of motion. Due to the fact that the shoulders bear weight in many Yoga asanas, people who have rotator cuff surgery must be careful when resuming asana practice.
Generally, exercises that flex and extend the elbow, wrist, and hand, can be done immediately following surgery. Active exercise and stretches, often with physical therapist assistance, may start six to eight weeks after surgery, depending on the complexity of the surgical repair. Strengthening exercises and weight bearing exercises can start a few months after surgery, with a doctor’s permission.
Prior to resuming Yoga practice, always check with a physician. Re-damaging the rotator cuff after surgery by starting any exercises too soon may permanently limit the functioning of the shoulder. Therefore, always discuss exercise options with your doctor before engaging in any physical activity.
Assuming that your doctor agrees with your participation in Yoga sessions, here are several asanas that are considered beneficial after this kind of injury. Please remember that these postures can be modified. If you are not familiar with modifications and props, please seek out a competent Yoga teacher.
Trikonasana or Triangle pose and Virabhadrasana II or Warrior II strengthen the supraspinatus, a muscle that helps lift arms out to the side and stabilize the rotator cuff.
Purvottanasana or Upward Plank pose stretches the anterior deltoids and the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. This posture can be modified by remaining seated, which will put much less pressure on the shoulder joint.
Jathara Parivartanasana or Revolved Abdomen pose, done with the back of the shoulders in contact with the floor, is an excellent rotator cuff strengthener.
Chaturanga, or Four-limbed Staff pose, a push-up position is not recommended after surgery because it takes a great deal of arm strength to keep from injuring the shoulder.
In general, all asanas, which put weight directly on the shoulder (especially Adho Mukha Svanasana, which is also known as: Downward Facing Dog), should be avoided after surgery.
Over time, and after healing, one might gradually practice strengthening asanas with doctor’s approval. Bear in mind that by paying careful attention to posture, these types of poses may be modified, or re-introduced, depending on your exact healing process.
Pay attention to how the shoulder feels during and following a Yoga asana practice. A slight ache directly after a Yoga session is normal, but pain within the shoulder joint that seems intense, sharp or lasting overnight should not be ignored.
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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