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Chronic Collarbone Pain During Bench


#1

Hello people

For many years, I have problems with the benchpress, and any sort of pressing variant in the middle or lower portion of the frontal plane, such as dips and decline bench.

The pain can best be described as fleeting, and localized in the left side of the collarbone, about 2 inches from the middle of the collarbone.

The pain does not occur when I lift, only when I let go of the bar and the tension is released. It only lasts for a second or so, but some irritation follows for a few days to a few weeks.

Note that I have little to no issues with pressing variants in the upper portion of the frontal plane, so a 30 degree incline press or even better, military press, causes no problems at all.

Atleast I can press, but as a powerlifter this is a disaster as I can only benchpress heavy once every 14 days to avoid the symptoms. This has caused me to lift heavy in the incline (hoping for some sort of carryover to the bench) and doing my warmup sets/speed sets in the flat bench. While I do improve my bench, my incline is now just as strong as my flat press.

This has been an ongoing problem ever since I started lifting 9 years ago. I've taken as much as 2 years away from training completely, hoping that it would fix itself, but 2-3 weeks of lifting and it comes back even with moderate volume(i.e 5x5) and 3-4 reps from failure.

Got an MRI scan years back and i was diagnosed with "overuse injury". Which doesn't make much sense to me, since 2 years away from any sort of lifting should fix that, right?

PS. I get the same issue with my forearm when doing any type of supine curls, but neutral or pronated is just fine. Again, the left side.


#2

When you bench, would it be safe to say that you do it in typical powerlifter fashion with an arch and thereby creating decline bench type of angle?


#3

I get the same pain you described in my right collar bone! Mine hurts like a B**** even during the movement and just a second after I rack the weight. It hurts on dips, decline bench press, and flat bench press but not on military/overhead press for some reason just like you described. This has only been going on for about 6 months and its getting a lot better from going lighter with more reps on the movements it hurts. It must be a muscle that pulls the collarbone/shoulder girdle down. Try to ice the crap out of it at night. a good stretch that I find that helps a lot is a regular chest stretch but also turn and tilt your head away form the side you want to stretch to really stretch the sternocleidomastoid and other muscles attaching to the collar bone. another thing that helps is to really emphasize packing your shoulders down and back. that's helped it a lot too. best of luck! let me know if any of these tips help


#4

I do. I've experimented with lying flat as a pancake, which helps just slightly, but i lose 10 pounds on my press (which is pathetic enough as it is)


#5

Well, color me astounded. I've been looking for years after other people with similar symptoms like mine, and now I've found not one, but two.

I agree, higher reps definitely help. Which would have been a get-out-of-jail free card if I was a bodybuilder, but as a powerlifter it really stinks.

I just bought a spray of ibuprofen and put some ice in the fridge and will follow your advice on stretching. You know what's funny? I've found that I can reduce the pain (but not eliminate) if i tilt my head to the side after a heavy set, so I think you may be on to something. Best news in years, thanks man.


#6

I do actually have tight hips. And tight obliques. Do you think that might be it? I have a strong back, can easily deadlift twice my bench and do chins for more reps than I can bench my own BW. Still, it is worth a shot I guess.


#7

MathewB makes a good point regarding lats/hips. If one side is excessively tight, it can negatively effect how you press.

DAC makes a good point as well regarding the sternocledomastoid. The clavicular head, as its name suggests, does attach to the clavicle. And you made a very interesting comment in response to DAC:

This would suggest that the sternocledomastoid could be one of the culprits. Now stretching alone may not be enough. There are trigger points that a qualified and experienced professional needs to work on.

Also, when you bench, do you use the technique of driving the back of head into the bench? This is how I perform and teach the various pressing movements off the floor or bench as it helps drive the weight up.

There is a secondary benefit that applies directly to you.

By engaging the cervical extensors such as the upper trapezius, transversospinalis complex, etc. you will promote the DISengagement of cervical flexors such as the sternocledomastoid (cervical flexion is one of its functions).

And one thing that I suspected when I first read your OP is the subclavius. This is why I specifically asked you if you typically bench in the powerlifter style of arching the spine and creating a decline-bench angle.

The subclavius attaches to the clavicle and the first rib. It concentrically pulls the clavicle down and slight forward.

You specifically mentioned that inclines and militarys do NOT bother you. The subclavius is not moving downward very much here.

DACistheman, who appears to suffer from similar issues, mentioned something about dips bothering him. The subclavius is moving down and forward here.

And - just like the sternocledomastoid - the subclavius can also have trigger points.

If there are significant trigger points or even scar tissue at the muscles I described, taking 2 years off will not guarantee a pain-free return.


#8

Thanks for taking the time for this writeup, this is giving me hope that I had not thought possible. From what I can understand, you're suggesting that I 1) stretch the lats and hips and 2) push the back of my head down, while using less arch right?

I am going to do some research on subclavius and sternocledomastoid, as well as scar tissue and trigger points, since my mind draws a blank here. If there is scar tissue, I guess I'm fucked right? Would a physical therapist be enough, or do I need more specialized help at this point?

edit: After looking at the sternocledomastoid, I can safely say that the pain is coming from where it is inserting into the clavicle. Sounds like our culprit.

PS.nonce the pain starts, it can transfer to exercises such as curls and chin ups, but it never starts from those exercises- if that is any clue to you.


#9

After doing some digging in the sea of knowledge (aka the internet), I've also found something called thoracic outlet syndrome, caused by tightness in the scalenes. One of the mentioned symptoms of that, was that pressing a finger into, and down the calvicle could cause some pain, which it does (not much though). It also said that one of the ways to get this, could be lots of time spent in front a computer. And since I sat about 12 hours a day in front of one from age 14-19, I guess it's possible.

I'm just throwing out clues here, since I have no idea really.


#10

If someone has a specific injury such as a strain, I would NOT advise SMR/stretching on that SPECIFIC region.

Otherwise, some type of self myofascial release and flexibility/mobility work is something most people should do. I'm not going to recommend any specific programs out there because I see flaws and strengths in pretty much all the popular ones. So this is where you will have to do the research and see which protocol is the best fit for you. The people I train have the advantage in that they can give me immediate feedback on a certain move and we can make subtle modifications as needed. This type of subtlety is logistically improbable via an online forum.

Just know that:
1) Not unlike lifting weights, there actually is a right and wrong way to go about it. For example, when foam rolling the thoracic spine, it's dangerous and almost always unnecessary to move down to the lumbar spine.

2) Do NOT expect immediate results. Remember - you're trying to correct years of improper alignment.

By driving the back of the head into the bench, you are engaging the cervical extensors; this should be able to somewhat disengage the cervical flexors, one of which is the sternocleidomastoid (it has other functions in addition to this, btw). So it might be something worth experimenting with. Just know that its just one piece of the puzzle and not a magic bullet. Same with the arch.

My post yesterday was based on your description that inclines and military pressing does not cause pain. That's why I proposed the theory that downward movement of the clavicle is a part of this. Which is why I proposed looking into the sternocleidomastoid as well as the subclavius.

The good therapists will have various methods of addressing trigger points (and I mentioned scar tissue as a worst-case scenario). Now some of these methods, IMO, are about as helpful as shaking a bag of chicken bones and uttering gibberish at the stars. However, to categorically state that ALL modalities are worthless is both absurd and irresponsible. So you're going to have to take it upon yourself to interviewing therapists in hopes of finding a competent one.

It bears mentioning that, although it could be the sterno, you will need to address how you stand, sit, move, and lift. Something happened through the years which culminated in this issue.

So take a comprehensive approach and do not be one of the ignorant fools who thinks all anyone needs is a barbell. Others can debate this subject while people like me and my clients are training without pain.

When performing curls, what does the weight do...? It pulls the clavicle downward. The clavicle also moves slightly downward at the finish position of the chin. Now if the pain, when doing chins, is not at the finish position, that could suggest irritation at the brachial plexus. So, your hypothesis of this being related to thoracic outlet syndrome may not be paranoia.

It's your body and you can't trade it in for a newer, shinier model. Now that you're better informed, get tested, ask the appropriate questions, and get back to us with the results.


#11

I appreciate all the help. This has been beyond expectation. I'll get back to this thread in a few weeks after I've consulted some physical therapists. Thanks!


#12

Look up AC joint injury. It sounds like a classic case especially with the pain on the negative.

Rob


#13

Hey Beachguy, thanks for the response.

I looked it up, but the symptoms clearly states that the pain is at the end of the collarbone, close to the shoulder, while mine is close to the center of the collarbone. Also AC joint injury makes it difficult to do overhead press and lateral raises painfree, which I have no problems doing.

Thanks anyway though.


#14

Matthew, any chance of posting the link to the 2 videos you mention here? Thanks.