The shoulders and arms take most of the beating in archery and are prone to the most common archery injures.
Do you have any of these common archery injuries?
Don’t you just hate it when you really enjoy doing something and then realize it is causing you pain that is taking away the fun? Many archers experience some pain in at least 2 major areas. Through proper treatment, you can avoid this pain or get relief.
The goal of any treatment plan is to relieve symptoms and restore function in the long-term so that you can back can get back to the activities you enjoy. Mainly, archery!
Therefore, if any of your symptoms stop responding to treatments or if your quality of life is significantly affected by pain and limited function, you might be looking at surgery as the next solution. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Many things can be done to prevent long-term injury and surgery.
Common Archery Injuries: Rotator Cuff
Shooting a bow is a tough job for your shoulders. Your string shoulder is pulling and rotating your shoulder outward while your bow shoulder is pushing and resisting collapse inward. These are obviously opposite activities and subject each shoulder to different types of stress and injuries.
However, If you start slowly and gradually increase your shooting, then the muscles will become conditioned and you should have few problems. If your shoulder starts to hurt then cut your practice back slightly and drop your bow weight if possible.
This is a great argument for shooting all year round and building up those muscles. Don’t just go out the week before bow season and spend 6 hours practicing. You won’t even be able to lift your coffee cup up to your mouth the next morning–a real tragedy!!!!!
Shoulder stretches should be a part of every archer’s warm-up routine. It is even more important for those of you over 40. (ahem–pay attention!)
Three common sources of rotator cuff pain include:
- Tendinitis: The rotator cuff tendons become irritated or damaged.
- Bursitis: The fluid-filled “pillow” that acts as a cushion between the rotator cuff and shoulder blade becomes irritated or inflamed.
- Tears: Damage to the rotator cuff that results in significant pain and weakness. Tears can be caused by an acute injury, or the symptoms may gradually progress over time due to overuse.
A physician who specializes in shoulder injuries such as an orthopedic surgeon or sports medicine physician will be able to fully evaluate your shoulder and understand the mechanics of bow shooting and how this places stress on your shoulder.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has put together a Rotator Cuff and Shoulder Conditioning Program of STRETCHING EXERCISES. Check it out!
Common Archery Injuries: The Forearm
Since archers rely on the muscles, tendons, and nerves that run through the forearm and into the fingers to draw their bows back and accurately release them, this area of the upper body is easily susceptible to overuse injuries. Inflammation of the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the elbow can cause extreme pain.
Two things you can do to help the pain:
- Proper rest time in between target practicing and hunting trips to allow the overused tendons to repair.
- Strengthening the forearm muscles.
Archers might also experience median nerve compression in the wrist or elbow. The median nerve is one of three main nerves that run from the neck all the way into the hand. When this nerve becomes compressed as it travels through the elbow or wrist, it can cause pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling. Typically, symptoms are felt in the hands.
These forearm conditions can oftentimes be treated through non-surgical methods such as:
- anti-inflammatory medications
- activity modification
Any archery, no matter what age or skill level, should practice regularly but not overdo it. Start out light and work your way up. Take breaks, ice your arm and shoulder, and rest between tournaments. Archery shouldn’t be painful and there is no need for it to cause the need for surgery–for (GASP) giving it up altogether due to injuries.
Shoot straight and stay on target!
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