Someone commented recently on Tortoise Hiker's shoulder injury, saying he would be hiking again soon because you don't hike with your shoulders. I thought so too until about three months ago when I injured my left shoulder coming down Daisy Mountain near Anthem. I slipped on loose gravel on a steep slope, fell on my elbow and immediately felt intense pain in the shoulder. Wanting to avoid surgery, I let the injury heal on its own. It is a slow process. Flexibility does not come back overnight. Soreness and the threat of pain are constant.
So, to my surprise after twice reinjuring that shoulder on other trails, I realized that, yes, you do hike with your shoulders as well as your legs. The shoulders are used to keep you balanced. You use them when you turn, swinging the shoulder just a bit. You also use the shoulders to carry your pack, and even shouldering it can be painful. I have found too that even on flat surfaces there is the chance of stumbling, and in trying to keep upright you naturally swing the shoulder, sometimes slightly, sometimes violently, enough anyway to cause reinjury. Hiking, I've found since my injury, is more work than pleasure and I stay away from steep, rocky slopes and long treks.
I wish Tortoise Hiker the best. I recently saw him in a photo wearing a sling, after surgery I assume. My hope is that he and other hikers will not rush the rehab and avoid steep trails particularly on loose gravel, until they are full healed. Shoulder injuries are serious. They are career-enders for many athletes. I have read it takes 3-4 months for severe shoulder injuries to heal. While my shoulder has made tremendous improvement with flexibility, soreness and pain, it has so far taken the joy out of hiking.
You do hike with your shoulders, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.