Left Side Weakness - Upper Body, Not Shoulder

Got a odd one I’m hoping to get some ideas on… I tried doing the normal upper body workout last Wednesday starting with Incline barbell bench ramping to my working sets of 8 reps. Weirdly, my left side just strangely felt unstable and weak. I basically was failing on warmup weight… Right side was fine for lefty wasn’t having it. I just called it quits on the workout after that happened, chalked it up to being tired or something one off. Next day tried the same, no change. Took a couple days off (did lower body instead etc) and still on Saturday no change. . It was very strange, seemed unstable… couldnt even do more than 1 rep.

All the while I felt completely fine… no pain, tiredness or anything but same result. The weakness also manifests in Pullups too in the same way and rows. So basically everything upper body. At this point I started getting worried and got an xray and ultrasound done 2 days ago (cheap here) . Both showed no shoulder tears or shoulder issues at all, which makes sense since there is no pain. I did tweak my neck a month ago and a PT I saw two days ago suspects that my trap, Pec, levator scap, are tight/inflamed and I need to stretch them.

Obviously I’m thrilled it’s not a shoulder tear but it seems strange to me that this happened all of a sudden. I haven’t found much on Google for something like this, most in a similar situation have a shoulder issue which it’s not in my case. Has anyone else had a similar injury? If so any steps you recommend or videos you recommend watching on rehab?


Update for the search engines… I got an MRI without contrast on the neck. (Cost was $320 to me) Results are the following:

Turns out the issue is a bulging disk impacting the nerve root in the c5-c6 area. I’ve effectively stopped lifting weights now. Just going to the pool essentially hoping that it will heal. I’m getting an injection to the area to ideally reduce inflammation and have the area heal on its own.

Anyone have experience with something similar?

Did you try to loosen up your pec, trap and levator scap like the PT recommended?

If tight muscles are cranking your neck into an improper position, causing issues, you may be able to take pressure off the nerve by relieving tightness and uncranking your neck.

Here’s a simple video

These guys are great and I’d say look them up. I hate treating c spine herniations personally. The spinal column is much smaller and the higher spinal level is always a concern. Often times these result in surgery but since it’s mild you may be able to make life modifications and improve it. Good luck to you!!

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Thanks! I’ll check those out. Have you seen positive results from rehab work on these scenarios? Studies seem pretty mixed in if it matters for healing unlike other injuries (though it seems clear they can’t hurt the healing process )

Yes I’m hoping that since it’s not ruptured it’s a situation where surgery can be avoided. It’s very frustrating being someone who really enjoys lifting weights obviously to be unable to do anything with sufficient intensity. I’m really hoping it will resolve on its own… At this point it’s so hard to tell if any relief is due to the symptom masking impact of the cortisone injection vs actual healing. Mostly you read negative stories online … I would like to think that’s more self selection since people are less inclined to post positive outcomes but that may just be wishful thinking.

Honestly I’m a bit surprised I don’t see more stories/situations like this being posted. Seems like apart from shoulder tears and lower back issues this would be very common in the lifting community… More than acl tears even (for weightlifting, not movement sports)

Oops, surgery was July of 18

Hey O,
I went through the same exact thing Jan of 2018. Middle of the night something popped in my shoulder. We treated it as a deep muscle injury. I had to see a physiatrist for an unrelated nerve issue in my elbow. During the exam he told me that he was certain my neck was herniated. He conducted a nerve conduction test in my left arm, I highly recommend, he was able to determine that my triceps muscle was not working at all. This also explained why my upper body on the left was getting thinner and weak. MRI showed that it was actually pushing on my spinal chord as well. Had surgery in July of 2017, and I have just now went back to the gym Sept. of 19. My arm is still weak, but I can lift more that when that happened and I can feel my arm pumping again. I have a long road to rebuild muscle and strength. To help boost it, I’m adding some gear to my diet and I spend extra reps and time on the weak side. I really suggest a nerve conduction test. It is extremely informative.