Frozen Shoulder

Good afternoon.I’m new to this forum but I have been a regular reader of T Nation for about 18 months.
I’m 50 years of age & started doing powerlifting about 18 months ago when I bought a laptop & went onto the internet.The routines that I’m using were taken from the Powerlifting Heads Up website & I have made good progress.

My 1Rep Max for the 3 lifts are as follows.
Bench press 241 pounds.
Squat 270 pounds.And that’s the Zercher squat because I haven’t got a squat rack.
Deadlift 300 pounds.
Small weights I know but my lifts were 50% less when I first started & I have bulked up so to speak.I have been really pleased with my progress but I now have a problem…Frozen shoulder.

This condition in my right shoulder has been diagnosed by a physiotherapist who is treating me.Additionally,I have been given exercises to perform to help cure the problem.
I haven’t trained since the 28th April until yesterday when I tried to bench press 120lbs but had to stop because of the pain to my shoulder.
I had no problem with the squats & deadlifts.
Now my physiotherapist said that I can still train my upper body but only within my limits of pain.

Which leads me to my questions:Should I still try to bench press? Should I refrain from all upper body exercises? Should I stop doing all powerlifting lifts until I am cured which could be a couple of years?
Your comments would be appreciated.


Adhesive capsulitis or a frozen shoulder can occur do to many different reasons. Sometimes, people who are multi-medicated can have drug interactions that can be the cause, sometimes it is secondary to an injury or tendinitis or in the case of the shoulder an impigement of the rotator cuff, or sometimes they are insidious in nature with no known cause. Firstly, it would be important to know if you know why you developed it. Did you have shoulder pain/tendinitis/inflammation prior to developing your frozen shoulder? It is not uncommon for persons over the age of 40, especially who are involved in overhead activities/sports or lift to have a subacromial spur that can cause rotator cuff impingement syndrome and cause the person to develop tendinitis and eventually adhesive capsulitis or a RTC tear. Literature suggests that you have 3 options with a frozen shoulder…some get better on their own with no treatment, PT treatment with joint mobilization and ROM, or manipulation under anesthesia. Remember that any thing medical with an -itis on the end refers to an inflammatory condition. If you aggravate your shoulder through weight training then you could impede recovery or even make the problem worse. My best advice without being able to see you myself would be similar to what your PT told you and that is to listen to your body. If it hurts while you do it or you have a persistent low-grade pain, not soreness, that last for over an hour after you lift then you are increasing the inflammatory process which is ill advised.

Have you tried ART (Active Release Techniques)? Maybe worth a shot.

Good evening Bigbumpy.
Thankyou verymuch for the reply.My injury has been caused in my opinion by over training.The powerlifting program that I was on was a once per week workout,however that is difficult for me to achieve as I work shifts.Earlies,lates & nights with rest days inbetween.So for example,if I train on a Monday when I’m rest day,I’ll probably be working on the following Monday.So what I have done is bring the workout forward,maybe as much as a couple of days which has shortened my bodies recovery time.That’s how I’ve done it.

Yes,I know what I have done is plain daft & I should have known better at my age but I was making such good gains.This really spurred on my motivation & was making me really happy which caused me to put on my 20 year old head…which didn’t suit my 50 year old body.Actually I’m 51 in August which makes me feel like an even bigger twit than I feel right now.

I failed to include in my previous post that I trained yesterday & tried to do a close grip bench press with 120lbs which I had to abandon immediately due to pain in my upper tricep & front deltoid.

I then proceeded to do 5x5 reps close grip B/P with 60 lbs which was easy & caused no pain.
With this in mind,I suppose that it would be sensible to see my doctor who will probably sign me off on sick leave which I don’t want to happen.The reason being is I don’t want to be off sick & I’m due to work a scud of overtime shortly which is financially beneficial to me & the missus.
What do you think?

Good evening Kettlebill.

I’ve had a look at the link which you kindly attached.At present I’m on 2 week course of self physiotherapy & I’m due to see my physiotherapist on the 24th of this month.When I see him,I will certainly mention ART.

Shady, I don’t know your location or how it works where you live. If you’re in the US, most states here are direct access states meaning that you can walk in and see a PT without an MD order. I’m in GA and we, being the backwards state we are, still require an MD prescription prior to PT consult. What I’m saying or I guess asking is did you see a PT directly and he diagnosed your condition or have you had an MRI?

There may be an underlying soft tissue injury such as a partial rotator cuff tear that caused your shoulder to “freeze.” If that’s the case then it makes all the difference in the world to how I would advise you. I know money doesn’t grow on trees these days, but it may be a good idea to have a MRI and see if you’re dealing with an underlying RTC problem. Too bad you’re probably not close or I could see you and tell you in about 5 mins what your best course of action would be.

Good morning Bigbumpy,


Shady, I don’t know your location or how it works where you live. If you’re in the US, most states here are direct access states meaning that you can walk in and see a PT without an MD order. I’m in GA and we, being the backwards state we are, still require an MD prescription prior to PT consult. What I’m saying or I guess asking is did you see a PT directly and he diagnosed your condition or have you had an MRI?

Bigbumpy,I live in the county of Cornwall,England.And in answer to your question,I self referred direct to a PT and I have not been examined by my doctor.The PT diagnosed the condition.No,I’ve not had an MRI.

A frozen shoulder can be very serious. I had worked with a woman who injured hers in a fall at work and it became immobile. She did the PT thing, but nothing would free it up. The last resort for her was to be put under general anesthesia and have her arm rotated to break up the deposits that had formed. From there it was back to PT 3x a week. Ultimately, she made a full recovery. Not to say this is your case, hers I’d call a worst case scenario.


Good evening Beachguy.
I’m just starting week 2 of 2 weeks of physiotherapy & flexibility has definitely increased in my right shoulder.So I’m hoping that my condition is not that serious but it is restrictive.

I was making such good progress with my powerlifting that I must admit I am feeling right down the dumps.
I’m already planning an aerobic routine to replace the powerlifting,which is not what I really want to do but it’s better than nothing.And I could do with losing a few pounds of middle aged spread.

I was kind of hoping that someone would be able to give me some hope to continue my powerlifting.


Every athlete I’ve ever known has to put up with their share of pain and train through to acheive their goals. My only question in my line of thinking is always risk vs. reward. My only question to you in previous posts was to try and determine the nature of why the frozen shoulder occurred as there is usually an underlying cause. Being that it is an inflammatory problem, for instance, if you have a partial rotator cuff tear that is the causative agent then continuing to lift upper may only exacerbate the condition and in the long run mean more time away from training.

That’s why I wondered about any diagnostic testing that you have had performed. It’s somewhat of a balancing act…you don’t want to take time away from your training, but if you train will you make the problem worse and in essence take longer to recover, therefore limiting your training for an even longer period of time. I’ve always taken the macho (ie.stupid) approach and that’s ignore it and train through it and just suck it up. But, then again I have a slew of injuries and orthopedic surgeries to show for it. Truth be told, if I had trained smarter or backed off I would have problem had less days missed at the gym.

As i get older, I like to think I’ve learned from my mistakes and listen to my body better. I still have that 18 year old inside of me though that says suck it up and be a man and just deal with it. I’ve had to learn to balance the two, because in truth I think it takes a little of both to be successful. I always remind myself that even though it ticks me off to no end to miss time from the gym, that this is a lifetime pursuit for me and that a few days or even weeks of prudence can often times be the best thing and is not gonna hurt my long range goals in the big scheme of things.

That being said, if you have no plans to have any diagnostic testing performed, then I might by reading your replies cut out any lifting that requires you to have your shoulders in a position of >90 degrees of elevation for the short term. Don’t know how limited your range is now, but that means no inclines or shoulder presses. I would also avoid front raises and side laterals for now if you do these. Best of luck.

Good morning Bigbumpy.
Thanks for the reply which makes a lot of good sense.I knew in December 2008 when I first exprerienced pain in my shoulder that I should have stopped.In my heart I knew it wasn’t a bit of sore muscle pain & I carried on.I was part way through a 12 weeks routine & I was determined to achieve the 1RM’s at the end of it.I did achieve those targets & should then have layed off for at least a month but I didn’t.I gave myself 1 week off & worked through the pain.Now I am where I am,with a frozen shoulder.

I’ll take your advice & after I’ve seen my PT again on the 24th,I’ll decide what routine I’m going to do.Which in a nutshell will probably be a continuance of the squats & deadlifts in a 12 week program combined with specific light upper body work until I’m cured.

Thanks again for your comments.

Hey Shady,
Always happy to pitch in what advice I can. Best of luck to you in your recovery and training.