Shoulder Problems... Help!

Hey guys.

I’m new to this site, but I’ve really benefited from a lot of these forums and I was hoping I could get a few people’s opinions on my ongoing shoulder problems.

To start of with, I’m 20 and have been lifting consistently for four years now. I’ve always been on the slimmer side; 160lbs 5’10".

About a year ago I was sparring in a Jiu Jitsu course when I pulled something in my shoulder. Thinking I was just a little sore, I continued with high intensity free weight shoulder exercises. The most problematic of these exercises was the upright row. After doing a few of those with high weight I began to realize the seriousness of my injury.

I went to get an MRI, and a few opinions from doctors in my area. They concluded that I only had mild impingement in and around my rotator cuff. They gave me this huge-ass rubber band, gave me these silly exercises to do, and told me to stay out of the gym for 4-6 weeks, or something like that.

I did what they told me to do, and I lost a lot of what I had recently gained in the gym, which was very disconcerting. The exercises, if anything, seemed to be only making it worse. I began to take GNC’s Triflex joint supplement, which contains MSM, chondroitin, and glucosamine I believe, and that seemed to help the soreness, but it was only a band-aid.

The pain can only be described as sharp, and sore at the same time. If my elbow comes anywhere above my shoulder on my left side, there is fairly moderate pain.

I know that shoulder problems are very common among weightlifters, and I have always been very careful to use correct form in all of my exercises.

To make a long story even longer …

I got sick of doing richard simmons workouts in my room, and I hit the gym again. Stubborn, as I am, I have been working through the pain (which I know most people in here would frown upon).

I have tried face pulls, doing different lifts, cutting shoulder workouts out completely, stretching more than I need to, I’ve tried many things.

Bottom line is, I don’t wanna just cut the gym out of my life completely because of this nagging pain. How can I overcome this, and still make some personal gains?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Wait so have you actually taken any time completely off? You said you went to the doctor and they told you to take 4-6 weeks off but had you doing exercises with that shoulder every day?

Have you actually taken a solid week off and not done any type of resistance movements with that shoulder?

I take a week off completely about every month or so, just to give my muscles and joints a rest, and usually before I start a new set of routines.

The pain goes away a little bit when I do that, but as soon as I lift again, it’s back full force.

Waylander is onto something here. Inflammation is a self-worsening cycle: impingement causes friction, which causes more inflammation as the body’s response, which worsens the impingement, and so on. Give it some good time off, and maybe even moderate use of some NSAIDs, and maybe it will get better. I wish I had not ‘worked through the pain’, as I now have a full-thickness rotator cuff tear in my right shoulder which has to be treated surgically. That means 6 months off, uggh.

Thanks for the advice guys. Patricio, what would you consider to be “good time off” ?

Also, how safe are anti-inflammatory drugs, I haven’t done much research on them. Any you would recommend ?

I mean I’m assuming Ibuprofen would be an example of one, but I don’t know how effective that would be.

[quote]bpeloquin wrote:
Thanks for the advice guys. Patricio, what would you consider to be “good time off” ?

Also, how safe are anti-inflammatory drugs, I haven’t done much research on them. Any you would recommend ?


do a search for them, there was a good thread about them in the steroids forum a few days ago.

Also this seems obvious but. . . you took a week off, it felt better, you went back and it got hurt again. My guess is this will heal on it’s own you just need to give it enough time. Maybe take 2 weeks off and focus just on legs and pulling movements then see how that goes.

Like Patricio said though, if you keep working through it you will reach a breaking point and then you’re fucked lol.

Good call waylander. thanks

Any pulling exercises you guys know of that wouldn’t involve my shoulders a whole lot ?

No prob.

Can you deadlift do pullups and things of that nature? Or is anything where your hands are above your head an issue?

I mean can you still do biceps/back? Is it just the pushing movements that are causing the issues?

Aight man, I went through the same exact problem you had 2 years ago. EXACTLY the same injury caused by wrestling too.

Im stubborn too and chose to fix myself by myself. I read all the internet self help things on here and other sites and tried my own routine to fix myself for a solid 6 weeks. This only made things 100x worse. 100x WORSE!!!

STOP what you are doing and go to a physical therapist that specializes in Active Release Therapy. I hate doctors and am always the first to avoid them at all costs possible, but you must listen to me and go see one, no matter what the cost.

You, just like me, have made things worse by constantly trying to use your shoulder in lifting. STOP! You have fucked up all the tissues and tendons in and around your shoulder. Areas such as your pec, bicep, lat, and trap are all fucked up and out of alignment. Scar tissue has built around them and are pressing even more on your shoulder causing an even greater impingement. Thus even more pain and and even more restricted range of motion.

You need a therapist to break up all that scar tissue. This is something that is going to take 4-6 weeks though man. The longer you keep fucking yourself up trying to fix yourself, the longer the rehab. You’ll do a combo of massage therapy and specific exercises to build up the 4 points of your rotator cuff. You should be good to go in 6 weeks tops. I wish I woulda went after 2 weeks of pain. Instead i was an asshole and made things worse.

The exercises you will be doing in the therapy sessions are going to be exactly like the ones in “Rotator Cuff Relief” by Dr. Horwitz. I have the book for myself and could email it to you to look through if you’re interested. I use the routines in there still to this day and its been almost 2 years.

Impingement is a bitch, but it can be fixed. Please take my advice and do what I say. It works. Also, even though I’m 2 years out of the rehab and massage therapy, I still have to do certain exercises from that book and roll out with a tennis ball and foam roller to keep my shoulder healthy.

As far as supplements go, what worked and still works for me is a fish oil caps, lots of olive oil and then a good multivitamin with vitamin C tablets. There is no magic pill or exercise man. Not where you are right now. You gotta get that tissue broken up and the muscles around where you are strengthened to support your shoulder.

If you have any questions or want that book, hit me up man. I was in the same position as you a few years back. It sucks, but you can get better and you can learn how to prevent this from ever happening again.

Good luck with what you decide to do. Just don’t keep lifting. Also, taking a week, 2 or 3 off won’t help you either. You’ll stay the same. Get that tissue broken up and then get on the exercises and youll be good to go!!

[quote]bushidobadboy wrote:
PS - The upright row is a retarded exercise for anyone with even a hint of shoulder problems. It can be replaced by much more shoulder-health-friendly exercises so don’t do it again, ok, lol?[/quote]

Listen to this guy; he knows his stuff.
Also: dont do behind neck press or pulldown or pull up.

I don’t know how anyone can say (with any certainty) they have “excatly the same injury”

Follow the doc /PT’s advice and work with them.

Yes, as BBB says, upright row, especially with a narrow grip, can impinge the shoulder very, very easily.

I realize that your case is not exactly the same as mine, but it sounds like we both have impingment between the acromion and the humeral head (bursa, supraspinatus…). You may have a type II/III acromion and simply be more predisposed to impingement, in which case (if true) it would make sense to me to avoid upright rows and behind the neck exercises, as BBB and Boffin point out. I agree that you should try to give it a big rest to let the area return to normal, or else you could end up like me. Denial/stubbornness is a bitch and will come back to bite you; I now have to take 6 MONTHS OFF after my surgery, so several weeks pales in comparison.

Just FYI, exercises modifications I employ to keep inflammation/pain to a minimum until I can have surgery:

No upright rows

Nothing above my head, meaning no pull-downs or pressing movements over the head, no overhead triceps extensions, nothing.

No flyes/cable crossovers

Partial-range bench press/push-up with plates on my back only for chest(when I break parallel I can feel it start to impinge)

Lateral raises only for shoulders (with relatively light weight), and I pronate my hands more than usual - when I do that, I don’t feel the tendons thumping around in there

No cleans - same as upright rows

For back - only bb rows and cable rows

Biceps and triceps usually on machines, because when I use bb’s/db’s, I have to support the weight and tense my shoulders, and it, strangely enough, impinges.

I also take NSAID’s (Advil gelcaps) 45 mins before a workout, as it reduces inflammation, making for less impingement and reducing that ever-worsening inflammation cycle.

get a resistance band and go to physio man, i popped my shoulder out twice once with baseball and once with BJJ just took 2 weeks off both times and use that resistance ban as much as possible… still bothers me today but nothing as what it used to

Ok. Thanks a bunch for the advice guys. The feedback has been really helpful.

**I’d prefer not to go with the physical therapy or surgery route, as my insurance won’t cover most of it. **

I mentioned in my first post that I injured it primarily through upright rows (I believe), but I failed to mention that also was the last time I did upright rows. So no worries there.

I have been trying to avoid exercises that cause pain. Would I be safe with just trying things out and developing a routine that includes only pain-free exercises until my shoulder has time to heal ?

I like the advil-before-workout idea, and whether with a resistance band, or with light dumbells, I could continue to work out strengthening the weak muscles around my rotator cuff.

Any more thoughts or advice would be appreciated. You guys are great.

Thanks Triple B.

My plan for now is at least 2-3 weeks of little/no upper body. Advil 400 mg 2-3x/day, and little extra sleep. Then I’ll see where I’m at.

That routine looks good. When the pain “dissipates” though, will that mean I can start back in again? I mean, is pain the only indicative sign of injury in this case?

[quote]bpeloquin wrote:
Thanks Triple B.

That routine looks good. When the pain “dissipates” though, will that mean I can start back in again? I mean, is pain the only indicative sign of injury in this case?


I’m still sort of wondering about this, if any of you can offer any advice.

Also, I’ve been taking 400mg of Advil 2x/day, and the pain hasn’t really gotten a whole lot better. How long should I be expecting to wait before I see significant results ?