T Nation

Shoulder/Rotator Cuff Pain


Hi all,

When training shoulders ive realised im starting to develop pain in both shoulders. Im not quite sure if its the rotator cuff hence the reason for my post.

Every time i do lateral raises with dumbells and other shoulder press related exercises they start to pain. I have stopped doing shoulder press with dumbells as at one point my left shoulder made a snapping sound and dropped the weight. Also ive noticed when i sleep im no longer able to put my arm under my pillow and rest on top of it as it causes some discomfort to my shoulder.

The pain isnt un-bearable when training shoulders but its still a cause for concern as it is halting any developments of my shoulders.

Any advice will be appreciated!!


Impingement in both shoulders. Go see a PT. You aren't resolving this on your own.


I mean, there's tons of stuff you could do... but it'll be much better getting assessed in real life. If you don't want to do that for some reason, then you can live with the pain or review the 10000s of posts and threads on shoulder conditions and impingement on this website. I'd take the faster, better route and go see someone qualified because it sounds like it is not just a small case.


a snapping sound is never good, see a doc, or atleast a PT like the above poster said


Thanks for your input above guys!

Mind you the "snapping" only occurs when lifting over head dumbell presses, my arms start to lose balance and either the left or right arm gives in under pressure causing the dumbell to sometimes drop causing the snapping sound. I have been told my GP to go light on shoulder exercises, however i have not yet seen a PT in regards to it.

Im training shoulders today, but very light. Will see how it goes and keep this thread updated.

Once again thanks,


Back from my shoulder workout, all went smooth but as soon as i got the the upright row on the second set my left shoulder clicked, almost felt like it came out of its socket for a split second. Have arranged a consultation with PT but thats next Feb. Could it just be weak shoulders?


Doubtful its weak shoulders...February is a long way off, have you checked into seeing another PT, sports chiro, or an ART or Graston certified professional? If you decrease your training, more than likely it's going to feel better, so you'll think about cancelling your February appointment, start bumping up your weights again and it will probably come back. Good luck with it though, I'd rather try to see someone sooner so I could get back on track now rather than wait around for 2 months.

In the meantime follow ed's advice and start reading the countless articles on this website.


Thanks for post above guys..

What about the "broomstick method" would that be of any use in my scenario?
I was told by a personal trainer that most likely the issue is within the rotator cuff however
my shoulders hurt and pop only when im doing overhead dumbell presses or upright rows. He told me to
lay off flat bench press for awhile also.

Appointment with a physio has been arranged for Jan now, earliest date possible.


Without a physical assessment, it's difficult to give solid advice. But from the information you've given, you probably do have impingement in your shoulders. The biggest thing leading me to that is the pain coming from the position you sleep in.

It could be do to rotator cuff inflammation, but I'd be more inclined to think it is due to scapular dysfunction, althought scapular dysfunction and rotator cuff normally occur together.

As far as the broomstick method(assuming you mean brookstick shoulder dislocations), it depends on the person as to whether I would recommend it or not. If you have any anterior capsule laxity or issues, I'd stay far away from broomstick shoulder dislocations. IMO, you would be better off doing some thoracic rotation mobility drills and pec major/minor stretching rather than broomstick work.


Read some of Eric Cressey's stuff on shoulders, its pretty solid.


LH, slight pain comes from puttin my arm under pillow and lying on it, the pain is in the shoulder region.
It is mostly in the right arm. I remember when i used to be able to ly down on either arm comfortably. The pain is not un-bearable but it is enough to make me change position and maybe move my arm slightly away from the pressure and weight of my head being rested upon it.

I am looking for PT's in my area asap prior to the consultation ive already arranged. I have a doctors appointment the following week as we speak. Need it to be diagnosed professionally as it is hindering my progress for any shoulder development.

Advice is encouraged and welcomed by fellow body builders!

Thank you all!


Ok guys heres an update:

Shoulder soreness has gone and im now also able to rest my head on my arm/shoulder without much pain.
Although when lifting or stretching over head shoulder does pain and sometimes pop if i lift heavy..


For what it is worth, hopefully to save you some trouble it could be several things all of which require some diligence on your part to resolve and not blindly going to thursday's workout because it is "shoulder day".

Impingement means there is insufficient room between your humeral head and acromion, the bursa and tendons get smushed up in there causing irritation and inflammation. Could be genetic, depending on your shoulder anatomy. Pesonally, I can no longer perform upright rows with a barbell but can clean a barbell or do high pulls with a heavy DB of kettlebell. an X ray is the only way to determine what kind of anatomical room you have inside. Avoid exercises that hurt. Generally internally rotated and elevated exercises like upright rows and "pouring the water" on dumbbell lateral raises. try not to do anything overhead.

Inflammation. the shoulder capsule could be inflamed, causing swelling. The swelling if temporary/acute will reside eventually by giving yourself a break and not training shoulders directly. And yes this means taking a break from benching your ass off. The inflammation itself could be contributing to the impingement/pain because the capsule has gotten so much larger than normal. There are several exercises you can do besides the broomstick/circumduction, expecially not this particular exercise. Use therabands and just work range of motion without pain. when it feels better, you can add some more extreme range of motions like that.

Rotator cuff tendonitis. Inflammation of the tendons. they get little blood supply. they grow slower than the superficial muscles (delts) and connecting muscles (SITS). chronic tendonitis can lead to tendonosis = basically tendon death/detachment. Fix it now by giving yourself a rest, enjoy the holidays, and when you come back consider a more general program for the rest/whole body with a focus on correcting your possible shoulder musculature.

Bicepital tendonitis. the biceps tendon rides in a humeral groove at the top of the humerus and can also get inflamed from excessive use. another reason to possibly take a break.

So overall:
-rest take a break from heavy lifting (except legs and maybe arms)
-focus on rotator cuff strengthing
-seriously stretch your possibly tight superficial muscles like lats and pecs that internally rotate your humerus
-do some specific shoulder mobility stretching/range of motion improvement exercise
-see your PT on schedule or earlier. February is unacceptable. Greater than 10 days is unacceptable.

I am not a physical therapist. I am not a doctor. I am just someone who has suffered from shoulder pain a lot as an adult, for what it is worth and I am sure there are several REALLY SMART PEOPLE on this site who can help more, but your doctor and physical therapists are your best bet.


OP, you said you do upright rows. Don't. Ever. Those and empty cans are basically the two exercises you should never perform for any reason, even if you have healthy shoulders. Abduction plus internal rotation is a recipe for disaster.


Does it hurt when you lay on your side with your arm not raised (only moved forward to avoid laying on it)?


no not then, only when directly laying on shoulder..pain is minimal even then.


I have had similar shoulder pain (clicking with overhead presses, discomfort if sleeping on it). Hurt it doing weighted dips last spring. Its been 8 months, 4 doctor visits, 5 weeks of therapy, two corisone injections, and its no better than when I started. Long story short: be patient with it, and definitely see a specialist, maybe two.


Upright rows + improper bench pressing = destroyed shoulders.


Here's my 2 bits for what it's worth.

I have a partial tear in my infraspinatus, which is one of the 4 muscles comprising of the rotator cuff...

I have exceptionally strong pain tollarances, for back in my 20's I worked out with a broken wrist and would just snap the bones back into place when it got uncomfortable and crank out another set... Eventually I had to get a pin put in my wrist, but whatever...

As for the partial tear of my infraspinatus, it would affect all sorts of exercises, from benching, to curls, to lateral raises, to pulldowns/chins, you name it. My strength kept falling and the pain kept increasing.

I saw a really good physiotherapist who is certified in ART (active release technique). He took a look at me and within a few seconds mentioned I was a textbook case of either an inflamed infraspinatus, or a partial tear. The only way to be 100% sure is an MRI.

Anyways, after some gruling ART sessions (nearly put me to tears), I was able to get back into the gym... My lifts are as strong as ever, but I do notice I'm not 100% and with a partial tear, I always need to take it a bit easy.

Your GP won't know jack about this kind of stuff, so find a good physiotherapist that does ART... You'll likely have to take a hiatus off the weights, but it'll be well worth it in the end...


Pretty good advice. Stretch a lot before you lift and do light weight shoulder exercises.

I pulled something in my shoulder a while back, jumped off the heavier weights and strengthened it up. Ever since (knock on wood) my shoulder has been perfect.