8 Ways To Stop Shoulder Pain From Ruining Your Weight Training Workouts

It’s time for your favorite strength class, and you’re motivated. First step on the role? Air presses. you have this, you say to yourself. But as soon as you lift your dumbbells skyward, a sharp pinch goes through your shoulder, stopping you in your tracks.

Although certainly unpleasant, having pain or discomfort in the shoulder while lifting weights is quite common, a physical therapist Maria Borg, PT, CSCS, supervisor at UCHealth Sports Physical Therapy in Colorado, tells SELF. And there are a host of reasons why this can happen.

But the bottom line? Having shoulder pain while exercising doesn’t mean you should give up strength training altogether. In fact, there are lots of little things you can do to make weightlifting more enjoyable for sensitive shoulders – and we’ve got all that important information right here.

Ahead, everything you need to know about shoulder pain and weightlifting, and what you can do to keep it at bay.

What causes shoulder pain when weightlifting?

There are several reasons why you may experience shoulder pain or discomfort during strength training. But perhaps two of the most common culprits are instability and weakness in your shoulder and surrounding areas, Kellen ScantleburyDPT, CSCS, founder of FitClub New Yorksays SELF.

First, a quick review of anatomy: your shoulder is a ball and socket joint, and your shoulder muscles are surrounded by tendons (which attach muscles to bone) and bursae (fluid-filled sacs that help reduce friction, much like your body’s personal lubricant). Bursae are found at all major joint junctions, hips and knees as well.

The shoulder joint is the most mobile in your body. “So it comes with an inherent instability,” which can lead to pain, says Scantlebury.

Weakness, particularly in the rotator cuff, can also play a role, and not just for baseball pitchers, who often injure this area with the repetitive throwing motion. The rotator cuff is made up of four different muscles that hold the shoulder in place. If these muscles aren’t strong enough, your shoulder may be sitting in a less than ideal location. Then, when you move your shoulder, especially overhead, you may feel some discomfort, Scantlebury says.

Borg explains it this way: The shoulder is a ball joint that’s supposed to roll and slide as you move your arm at shoulder height, overhead, or as you move your arm away from your body. But when you have rotator cuff syndrome (essentially any injury or condition that affects the rotator cuff), the rotator cuff muscles are not doing their job to keep the ball in the socket. Instead of the shoulder rolling and sliding when you raise your arm, the kneecap of the joint presses on the soft tissues of the rotator cuff tendons and bursae between the kneecap and the top of the shoulder blade. This, in turn, can create pain and discomfort.

Problems stabilizing your shoulder blade or shoulder blade can also contribute to shoulder pain, as the stabilizing muscles at the back of your shoulder help position the joint correctly. When these stabilizers aren’t working optimally, you may have a higher risk of problems such as shoulder contact (common in swimmers, when the top of your shoulder blade rubs against your rotator cuff), tendonitis ( when your tendons become inflamed or irritated) and bursitis (when your bursa are inflamed or irritated), which can lead to shoulder pain.

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