21 Mar Shoulder Pain
Overhead gym exercises causing you shoulder pain?
Shoulder pain with overhead activities is a very common complaint received within the Physio clinic. It occurs in a wide range of people but is increasing significantly in younger, athletic populations since the uprise of the fitness industry.
Common symptoms and complaints:
- Pain in the shoulder which may refer into your arm
- Shoulder pain when reaching for a seatbelt or placing your arm behind your back
- Painful clicking, pinching, or an arc of pain during shoulder movement
- Pain when lying on the sore shoulder
- Pain in the shoulder with some gym exercises (overhead press, bench press, push ups, lateral delt raises)
What causes this?
The shoulder is a complex joint, that has been designed to have a high degree of mobility, however, this comes at the cost of joint stability. For this reason, there are a number of factors that may be contributing to the experience of shoulder pain with overhead activities such as;
Rotator Cuff Weakness:
The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles (Supraspinatus, Subscapularis, Infraspinatus and Teres Minor) that surround the shoulder joint and work to stabilise the head of humerus firmly in the shallow socket joint during movement. When these muscles become underactive or weak, it allows the head of the humerus to slide upwards and forwards into the subacromial arch during overhead movements. This can lead to internal structures such as tendons and bursa to be ‘squashed’ or irritated, causing pain. This is commonly known as ‘shoulder impingement’ which if left untreated can lead to overuse injuries such as tendonitis, bursitis or rotator cuff tears.
Poor Shoulder Posturing
This can also be a contributing factor to shoulder pain. It is becoming increasingly common to see people present to our clinics with poor shoulder postures, especially those who spend a lot of time working at a computer or have poor shoulder postures. This not only can lead to the shoulder again moving forward as previously mentioned but can lead to tightness in the pectoral muscles, weakness in the mid-thoracic muscles and can further cause poor scapular control.
What can I do about this?
Ideally, avoiding painful or aggravating activities where possible is best, however, some considerations listed below may be helpful for those who may be experiencing only mild symptoms:
If you experience pain during pressing exercises at the gym (shoulder press, bench press, etc), some quick alterations to your technique you can try include:
- Reduce the weight you’re using and try to perfect your form – ego lifting yourself to injury will not help your progression in the gym
- Be aware of your shoulder posture before starting your exercise, ensuring your shoulder blades are in the optimal ‘down and back’ position throughout the movement is essential
- Use machines where able to maximise support and stability
- Swap barbell exercises for dumbbell or cable machine exercises to allow more freedom during the movement
- Try a neutral hand grip as opposed to an overhand or pronated grip
- Try a narrow grip rather than a wide grip
Due to the complex nature of shoulder pain, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly what the cause is without a full assessment of your posture, muscle strength, and joint mobility. If you have been experiencing any of the above symptoms a full assessment of your shoulder by a Physiotherapist is recommended. By doing so, your physio will be able to provide you with a tailored rehabilitation program that addresses any areas that need some work including muscle imbalances, exercise technique advice and a greater understanding of the recovery process for you.
Treatments commonly used to address this include:
Want to find out more and get some help?
Speak to one of our physiotherapists who can perform a full shoulder assessment and develop a rehabilitation program to help reduce your pain and improve your function today.