Arm Soreness: What Does It Mean and
What Should I Do?
With spring baseball season underway, and a new summer season around the corner, some players are already showing signs of fatigue with many games left to play.
During this time of year, questions often arise about surviving the season:
- What do I do if my arm is sore?
- When is it ok to throw after my arm has been sore?
- How many pitches can I throw?
When your arm is sore, it’s your body’s way of telling you it has been overworked or overstressed. To some degree, the warning of soreness is ok — as long as you listen to it.
What Arm Soreness Does (and Doesn’t) Mean
When we talk about arm soreness, we do not mean severe shoulder pain or sharp pains in the shoulder, neck, or elbow. These could indicate more serious conditions and should be examined by a medical professional.
The type of soreness that occurs after throwing is generally caused by overstressing the rotator cuff muscles.
Pitching is usually the position that produces a large degree of stress, secondary to the number of throws and the intensity level of each throw.
Why Your Arm Gets Sore
The rotator cuff muscles cause rotational acceleration (concentric contraction) of the upper arm to propel the ball. They also slow down the arm after the ball is released, causing an eccentric contraction during deceleration.
These motions cause the muscles to become overstretched and sore.
Some theorize that this soreness is caused by micro-tearing of the muscle tissue; icing after throwing is an attempt to reduce the inflammation process.
What to Do If Your Arm Is Sore
Your arm needs rest after it’s stressed. By stopping the actions that produced the soreness, (throwing), the body heals over time.
Continuing to throw with a sore arm compounds the problem, and:
- Increases the risk of more serious damage to the muscles and joints
- Reduces power generation of the arm
- Limits performance
How much rest?
Think of it this way — if you ran a marathon on Monday would you run another one on Tuesday?
There's no magic number on how much time is enough to start throwing again. Everyone has a different threshold.
The amount of rest time depends on how much stress was induced and how resistant the muscles were to the stress. This resistance can be altered by increasing strength and endurance in the specific muscles used in throwing.
How many pitches?
Some organizations, like National Little League®, have instituted pitch count rules for various age groups.
For example, if you pitch X pitches you must rest X amount of time before pitching again and there are maximums that can be reached.
Although this is a good safety measure, it does not account for players that participate in multiple leagues.
The best advice is to listen to your body. Don't overdo it if your arm is sore.
Tips for Reducing Arm Soreness
- Train. Baseball specific training in the off-season, and a maintenance program in season, will help you maintain your arm strength and stamina.
- Warm up properly before throwing.
- Insure proper throwing technique. Make sure you are throwing with your whole body, not just your arm. Your legs and core have much more power and stamina than your arm, so take advantage of it.
- Use ice. Icing immediately after extreme throwing can be helpful.
- Listen to your body. Soreness is your body’s way of telling you it needs some time to recover.
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