T Nation

Shoulder - Functional Internal Rotation Incomplete

Hello guys,

So I finally decided to create a topic about this as I have been having issues with my right shoulder for way too long now. I’m not a beginner lifter, I have been lifting for about 5 years and I can say that I’m familiar with the exercises so it’s definitely not things like bad form.

Let me tell you how it started - I injured it playing football, suffered a sudden fall to the ground and used my right hand to absorb the impact, hence all the tension went through my right shoulder. Shoulder injured, I was resting, and then I hurled a pillow in a sort of across-the-body movement from the right to the left and I could hear multiple cracks in the shoulder and that was it.

I went to see an orthopaedic doctor and he said that fortunately there was nothing wrong with the rotator cuff, it’s just the glenohumeral ligaments and I would have to keep my right arm in a sling for 7-10 days, which I have done then. This was back at the end of April. Now it’s been about 2 months since I went to the doctor.

There was a period of one month since that consultation when there was no lifting or any sports activity whatsoever, only rest + drug treatment. Then I got back into lifting on 23rd of May and I’ve been lifting since. I could not say I had a great difficulty doing any exercise, but with some of them I had some discomfort / avoided them, such as:

  • lat pulldowns - at the top of the movement, it was like I could feel the weight pulling my shoulder out of the socket
  • chest flys with dumbbells - sometimes I felt pain in the shoulder towards the bottom of the movement
  • dips - didn’t even dare to try them, I reckon it would have been a terrible idea

That’s pretty much, I cannot say that I felt really hurt during the workouts cause then I would have stopped. I did feel discomfort at times, but nothing too serious. Now the actual problem was when I was not working out, mostly when I was sleeping as I tend to sleep on the side and this is virtually impossible to do on the right shoulder - the pain will wake me up. Also during the rest of the day - pain was sometimes quite significant.

I have to mention that I have been using ice packs 3-4 times a day, one of which was after the workout - and it worked pretty well. I have also been taking glucosamine HCl and chondroitin, don’t know whether they have a huge impact but now I’ve stopped taking them for 4 days and without any physical activity my shoulder hurts. I tried to avoid taking NSAIDs like ibuprofen or stronger ones because of the side effects and because I have been on them long enough for my initial shoulder treatment.

Now I have been reading this article and put my shoulder to test: functional external rotation is absolutely fine, however functional internal rotation is incomplete - I can’t get my fingers to touch each other. Then I’ve tried the isolated right shoulder test - to touch my left shoulder blade with my right hand fingers, doing it behind the back. This is where it hurts and I cannot touch it. There is a significant immobility in this movement and I do feel pain.

The article is great, but it doesn’t say too much about rehab. I’m not too sure what exercises to use or whether I should actually do them.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Hi guys, had an MRI scan and apparently what’s happening in my shoulder is that there is a partially torn supraspinatus tendon and subacromial bursitis.

If anyone has experienced something similar, please let me know as I’ve got a few questions about the recovery process.


Apr 28 I had surgery on my left shoulder for biceps tendon, subscapular tendon and the supraspinatus tendon. This was a result of wear and tear over the years, not a specific injury. Lifting aggravated it a lot, especially the supraspinatus with overhead moves.

Surgery involved an open incision, in addition to the arthroscopic holes. This time though it was a relatively small incision, around 2", vs the 5-6" incision I earned in 2009 in the other shoulder rodeo I’ve had.

Recovery is what it is…you have to be somewhat patient with it (who me? patient? never!) Wear the pillow and sling as long as you are told to. Don’t lift your arm over your head until things are actually healed (do as I say, not as I did on that one…) Do your PT and don’t start lifting until you are healed. Then start with the basics and LIGHT weight. You do NOT want to reinjure it.

If you are fortunate, you may get 100% ROM back, and after about 8mo post op it should be mostly pain free.

I’m done with PT now, at 18+wks post op, with 100% ROM and am mostly pain free. I have started lifting lightly again. Time will tell how much I regain on lifting. But in my case, the surgery was worth it. I have a lot less pain than I did.

Good luck with your shoulder. Make sure you find a PT person who is familiar with weight lifting. It will help them help you.

Thanks for your input.

I know that what’s happening is that the bursitis is actually making me feel uncomfortable because it presses on everything around it, particularly the supraspinatus tendon. Have avoided overhead stuff for almost 5 months now, and I was still able to lift at a decent level. However, I’ve decided to completely rest for 2 months now with no medication whatsoever and see if the inflammation will reduce in size - if it doesn’t, I’m going to have surgery.