Save Your Shoulders With This Tip
Are you warming up your shoulders before a long day at work?
Throughout my career as a professional arborist and climber, I've witnessed many people come and go from this profession. Working at a company with around 300 employees, it gave me quite the mix of different aged coworkers as well as different body types. Through my experience I've seen different types of injuries that have prevented people from working as well as ended careers. Obviously there have been accidents that caused bodily injury, but there were also plenty of injuries that were caused by repeated use. Let's have a discussion on a repeated use injury that is far too common in our industry and how we can try to keep it at a minimum from this point forward!
As a disclaimer, I am not a sports physiologist nor do I have any professional experience in sports medicine. I do have experience in the tree care and climbing field that has helped me base this article on what I have found works for me. Any injury from what is mentioned in this article whether it be from following my advice or from misuse of the information is strictly on you. Thanks for reading!
So, I've seen some injuries that we can hopefully help others avoid in the future. By far the most common injuries I have seen are shoulder injuries. We have a job that demands an extreme amount out of our shoulders. Whether it be wielding a chainsaw for hours at a time, climbing throughout the canopy for hours at a time, ascending ropes all day long, or lifting heavy branches with our shoulders. What about those times when it is just a limb is heavier than you can handle? There's your risk for injury.
When we put our shoulders through a repeated process of holding a limb and then letting it drop onto our skeletal system (more directly, our shoulder), we are opening ourselves up for shoulder surgery down the road. Most times that I have talked to others that needed their shoulders replaced or have torn cartilage within their shoulder, it ends up being their non dominant shoulder. This seemed strange until I had a further discussion with someone who had just had surgery. He admitted that he one-handed his saw constantly and his doctor figured out that the dropping of limbs into the cartilage and socket of his shoulder is what caused his injury. Throughout my time with many other workers that mentioned shoulder pain, the need for cortisone shots, or their ability to not raise their arm above their head, the reoccurring theme was handling a chainsaw.
The best advice I have for anyone that is starting to experience shoulder pain is to stop one-handing the damn chainsaw! But, for many, it is a very hard habit to break when they have been doing it for 1, 3, 5, 10, or even 20 years. In no way am I condoning one-handing a chainsaw ever, I'm just stating the fact that it is a hard habit to break but it is entirely possible as well as highly recommended to keep your body working for a longer period of time. Good work practices are a great place to start!
Secondly, I would highly recommend warming your shoulders up each morning when you get to the shop or when you get to the job site. This could easily be part of your job site assessment and it's a quick way to help prevent some work time loss injuries. A quick 5 minute warm up can help push you to the next level and get your body working like an industrial athlete instead of like another laborer. Here's a quick shoulder warm-up that you can bring to the job site with you, and the only exercise equipment you need is a rake! Everyone has a rake on the job!
First I would recommend doing a quick set of 20 jumping jacks to get the blood flowing to your extremities. Next 360 degree shoulder rotations for 30 seconds per arm. This helps bring even more blood flow into your shoulders as well as warms them up for the activities you'll be doing throughout your day. Next 10 burpees to get your whole body activated from your forearms, to your core all the way to your calves when you jump up. This is a great way to get a full body warm up.
Next, grab the rake and hold the handle in both your hands in front of you. Now bring the rake above your head to start giving those shoulders a bit of a stretch. Next bring the rake behind your head and slowly extend one arm out and behind you while the other arm flexes. Now allow the flexed arm to drop behind you as well, all without dropping the rake. You don't have to 'death grip' the rake, allow it to shift in your hands to make the movements fluid. We are looking to get a full range of motion out of our shoulders. Now you can repeat those movements to bring the rake back to the front of your body. The movements should look like you are paddling a kayak, but the paddle would transfer from in front of you, to above your head, to behind you and then in reverse. Do this for 1 minute.
Lastly, I would finish this off with another 360 degree shoulder rotation for 30 seconds per arm. This will help keep that blood pumping and help bring some more flexibility to them as well.
This is a great way to warm the shoulders up before a long day of climbing through the trees, swinging the chainsaw around for the hundreds of cuts you are about to make, as well as all the raking you'll do by the end of the day. Our shoulders are highly valuable tools that keep us safe in the trees as well as bring home money to our families. Be sure to take care of them so they can keep you working for the entirety of your career! Let us know what other exercises and warm ups you are doing at work in the comments below!