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Shoulder/Rotator Problem Getting Worse

I posted a while back regarding my shoulder and rotator problem. I saw a specialist who told me that the majority of torn rotators can be fixed properly without surgery. This was great news to me seeing I just got done having a big plate and screws put in my leg due to a completely snapped fibula. He recommended a handful of exercises, stretches, and gave me an anti-inflammatory called nebumetone 750 mg to be taken twice daily.

Before I was popping ibuprofene like it was going out of style. I initially injured my shoulder two years ago while doing heavy incline bb press. I did what the doc told me and it seemed to get a little better for a while but everything from my trap, pec, upper bicep, upper back and of course shoulder, mainly the front still was completely stiff and sore. I stretch and warm up properly, I use bands, foam roller and a hard card board roller to get deeper daily.

I was doing a little heavier incline db press today (110 lb dbs) and it just started killing. I would really like to know if anyone has any idea of how I should lift in order to properly heal this problem for all. its been nagging me way too long. Any help would be much appreciated! i’ll be making another doc apt. tomorrow… Oh and if there is anyone that knows of any great specialists in the milwaukee wisconsin area who work with bodybuilders on a regular basic I would love to find a physician that can really “work” with me. Thanks everyone!!

I had bicep and shoulder problems for years…I still have a nag here and there but I did some things to alleviate pain and fix the problems.

I changed everything for a month or so. Stopped squatting and deadlifting and did leg presses/extensions/curls. Did no barbell upper body work to take pressure off of my joints. No heavy overhead movements. When I do Dumbell bench, I focused on setting up like a regular bench and keeping the weight over my chest and not my shoulders.

Also did what I called my “humbler day” where on my fourth day i went in and did bench, behind the neck press, squat, curls, bent over rows with just the bar for about 5 sets of 30 just to move blood.

When i started feeling better, i started back very slowly, still dont do any barbell press except my heavy bench day and my camber bar bench. Anyway, DB work is better. Started squatting with a cambered bar…then a regular bar with a wider grip. Then moved the grip in to where it is now.

Also, my buds mom is a massage therapist and she worked on my shoulders and back one day for about 2 hours.

The key was working in some olympic lifts, especially slowly working in overhead squata and very light hang snatches. Every training day ended with 3 sets of ten on hang snatch with 45-65 lbs. It helped completely rebuild my shoulder. I was told by the doctor, who works with LSU athletes and we all trust, i was about two or three hard workouts from tearing my bicep at my elbow and my shoulder, and completely ruining my shoulders.

With the ibuprofen and that other stuff, I found I built a tolerance very quickly. Make sure you use it only when you need it. At my worst I was taking 12 Aleve for a meet, and 4 every training day. That stuff will get at your kidneays and liver in a bad way, aldo the tolerance will cause them to become ineffective. Down to popping 2 ibuprofen before training days now.

Hope some of this helps.

you might need to strengthen up your serratus anterior which is still a work in progress for me, I would work on push up variations and if back to dumbbell presses and flies variations uses weights that move from the contraction of you pecs.

Thankyou for your help guys. I have been unable to do BB Bench because it kills my shoulder. Pushups hurt, Dips are terrible, wide grip pullups hurt, and every kind of machine for chest i’ve found hurts. I only do incline Db bench because the flatter I go the more it hurts.

for some reason I think that the reason db’s dont hurt usually as much as the bar is b/c my bad shoulder can kind of accomodate or move to where it feels better easier than when lifting with a straight bar. Whats weird to me is that DB military press doesnt hurt much at all compared to any chest press.

I had a few responses a while back that maybe my I was pushing more than I pull, but I’d have to say if anything its the opposite. I have not touched a DB over 110 for incline bench for a while but I can do 300 lbs bb rows farely well with minimum body english up to 12 or so reps. I have also read many of the articles on here regarding repairing the shoulder.

One of the lifts I was thinking of trying was the laying down bench but i’d like to just be able to lift normal again lol. I havent touched a flat bench without pain for over two years. ugh… Do you guys think that I should just stay off any lifts that irritate my shoulder, stick with just light (and how light?) lifts for chest and shoulder until it starts to improve?

I guess the doctor will be able to tell me lots of these answers but I like to hear replys from people who have or are dealing with the same problems I am. Thank you all for your help!


Did you ever get an MRI to get a definitive diagnosis?

[quote]LSUPOWERDC wrote:

Also, my buds mom is a massage therapist and she worked on my shoulders and back one day for about 2 hours.


. . Please continue your story.

Getting an MRA on Wednesday. I overslept like a jack ass and missed my last appointment… Had chest today and it felt better and I lifted strong. 100 lb db’s for incline I did 4 sets 10, 12, 12, 15. I kinda wanted to slowly go up and feel how my shoulder felt before I went higher. Afraid to touch the 110’s b/c last time I hurt it a lot. Incline flys I did 4 sets of 8 with 75, 80, 85, and then 90 for a PR. Now it hurts like hell though lol. Just need to get this damn thing fixed. I’ll letcha guys know how it goes.

Sounds like its a ligament bro… im no doc but my brother has similar symptoms and he recently got a cortisone shot… about 2 days ago actually… hes still recovering… check out a picture of the acromioclavicular joint and see if thats where the majority of your pain is taking place. Best of luck homie

I would describe myself as someone with a shoulder injury that’s in remission. My AC joint became painful following a set of flat DB presses in October last year. I had osteopathic, chiropractic and ART treatments but nothing would eliminate the persistent nagging pain. The tip of the AC joint was the epicentre but I also had pain along the clavical and front delt area.

I had to ditch all bench and pressing movements, as well as overhead pulls. Through trial and error I had to find exercises I could do without making the situation worse. At the same time I was conscious of rehab and got into the habit of RC and scapulae drills, much of which I found on this site, as well as foam rolling and tennis ball soft tissue work.

I had a few false dawns where it simply disappeared and I tried to ease back into some additional work, only for it to recur. I recently had arranged for more ART - as much for a back injury (that’s another story) - when again it simply cleared up prior to the appointment. I still had an ART session and will continue to have them while my back is being treated. I have since upped my pressing work with no issues and can detect some chest/delt improvement already.

Aside from the basic advice regarding rest and appropriate specialist care, my key takeaway advice is:

  • Seek soft tissue manipulation of the capsule area. Any decent specialist will be aware of this area in the armpit. It literally offers instant relief with impingement and puts you in a position to heal. Trust me, foam rollers, tennis balls can’t truely replicate this.
  • Build the RCs and scapulae, and generally increase your back to chest work ratio
  • Consider a decent osteopath to insure proper alignment and give you a postural assessment (this is my weakest area; I have forward-sagging shoulders)

Hey guys, I had an mra last week finally. Took forever to get in. They did the dye injection etc. I saw my doc the other day and he does NOT see any major tears etc. He does see some “fraying” of the labrum on the exact opposite side of where the pain is coming, the back of the shoulder.

He said that can affect and be painful to the front where i’m feeling the pain while pressing. I had a cortisone injection and hope that can help the problem. He wants to see me back in a couple weeks so i’ll see whats next i guess. thanks for your help everyone.


Curt, I had a labrum tear in 2003, they just scoped it and cut out some of the torn cartilage. Now 2010 after continued lifting and pain much like you described, I had another MRI.
The doc is a shoulder doc for the Padres, and he said they call him Mr. Fix it, but that there was nothing to fix. Just the same fraying of the labrum like you mentioned, all the RC tendons were intact, no impingement.

The head of my humerus has shifted posteriorly within the shoulder socket, worn out the cartilage in the rear of the joint, and created bonespur growths on the head of the humerus where it has bone/bone contact. He said it was degenerative arthritis brought on by a)genetic disposition and b)repetitive use. Said he just completed research and spoke about this issue since it was become more prevalent in football players and weightlifters. We could definitely see the changes between the first MRI in 2003 and the second in 2010, both had dye injections. I asked about another scope surgery, maybe removing the osteophytes and he said they would probably grow back and that another surgery would not guarantee recovered full range of motion or less pain.

  • The road to getting that diagnosis was long and involved many wasted visits to PT/ATC and regular docs trying to have me do band/tubing exercises.
    Edit: Also had cortisone shot :slight_smile:
    So what did I do about it?

I stopped bench pressing and overhead pressing with a barbell, do flat DB pressing and cable flyes only and am not trying to get to be 250lb anymore. Just do DB presses 1 arm at a time without one in your other hand, I have gotten up to 105s, pretty good. For Delts all I do is laterals to side and rear, keeping reps above 12-15.

I stopped snatching and C/P kettlebells and cancelled my Russian Kettlebell cert this past weekend (and lost $300). I can’t do a Turkish Getup with left arm supporting, it is too painful. I made an appointment with Egoscue clinic today for a more comprehensive overhaul. Read the book “Pain Free” by Pete Egoscue, it reiterates how poor alignment in hips/knees/ankles can translate into bad shoulders. Cressey/Reinhold shoulder DVD indicated the same.

PM me for a spreadsheet I made to help get me on the road to being better, I can’t figure out how to post it here. Sad but after years of heavy lifting, poor posture(slouching), not stretching, I have dysfunction. Read Dave Tate’s Gluteal amnesia, and the Strong(er) series workouts, all about proper activation.

  • Bought Cressey/Reinhold DVD on optimal shoulder performance, a must buy.

I learned that my RC was not firing properly, causing my delt to take over as well, it is comical to watch in a mirror trying to do upright rows. Right shoulder looks fine, left one, doesn’t. Cressey provides an escalating routine that starts with pushups and builds back to pressing, has TONS of corrective stuff in there.

  • Band dislocates, doorway slides, pec stretches, RKC Arm bars. Regaining ROM, and being able to hold the kettlebell in the preferred position with arm extended, slightly behind my head is my ultimate goal.

Hope that helps some. I am convinced just maintaining proper range of motion, stretching, taking a layoff is of primary importance. I am 41 and wish I knew this stuff 20 years ago, it would have changed the way I lifted.

Here is a pic of what happened…

Here’s a screenshot of the spreadsheet.

Hey b12sblue2002 have your shoulders felt any better after doing all of these corrective exercises? And when did you decide to do them since your MRI in 2010?

JSOZ, they felt better from NOT doing stuff mainly. Not incline bench pressing 275 does wonders for rehab.
I went to the Egoscue clinic in San Diego today for overall evaluation and corrective reset and have a list of corrective exercises, which are more like some activation drills and letting gravity reset your body. The ATC said to stop doing the circumduction (band dislocates) since I have poor thoracic mobility and friction is high and probably creating more damage than not, at least until my posture is corrected.

Honestly, the doorway slides, side-lying external internal rotations (Cressey), reach/roll, YTWL type stuff has helped some. Before I got injured too badly, I had been doing cuban presses and “no-money” drills. I have a chest expander from Lifeline fitness that I use with some drills from Matt Furey and I can honestly credit that with a)my rehab from the first shoulder surgery and b) after all the wear and tear going on in the shoulder, the rotator cuff tendons are intact.

These are my notes from the Cressey DVD for external impingement and the proper exercise progression:
Feet elevated pushup isometric holds
feet elevated body weight pushups
stability ball pushups
weighted pushups
neutral grip DB floor press
neutral grip decline DB Press
pronated grip decline DB press
barbell board press (gradual lowering)
barbell floor press
neutral grip DB Bench press
low incline DB press
close grip bench press
bench press
barbell inline press
overhead press??? (maybe never)

more notes
limited ROM before full ROM
Adducted before abducted
unstable before stable
closed chain before open chain
dumbbells before barbells
isometrics before regular speeds
traction before approximation (eg pullups before overhead pressing)

Internal impingement notes
generally can do anything in the weightroom excluding:
-overhead lifting (still do chinups)
-straight bar benching
-one arm medicine ball work
-upright rows
-front side raises
-olympic lifts
-back squats

principles of RTC rehab
-need adequate strength
-need muscular balance
-need stable base of support
-need endurance
-need dynamic stability
***Can’t work the cuff to failure!!!

This is an excellent thread!

I am having the exact same problems Curtyb describes; flat bench impossible, incline DBs possible with minor pain, overhead oddly enough not being a problem. I have the pain in both shoulders and it would appear that a period of chest specialization brought it on. I am 37 and from having read up on the symptoms all over the internet it seems likely the AC degeneration is to blame for this.

I would hate to have to entirely give up chest training - I did for a month or so and the pain quickly resumed once I started benching again. The exercise suggestions made by B12 are great. Dont really know why one hand DB presses are painless - but they are!

Do you also experience shoulder pain when working biceps?

Would surgery (for AC degeneration) fully alleviate the problems?


Nick, sorry for the late reply. I had bicepital tendonitis years ago, but that was a separate issue that resolved with some time off, so no, I don’t experience it. Try keeping your elbows pinned to your side, or even leaning back slightly to put them on stretch.

Some things to try is not to always use the same angles for all sets. Example: say you are doing cable flyes for chest. If you are doing 4-5 sets of them, start with the cables high and move them down a couple notches every set so the last ones are from close to the bottom. If your incline presses are always at 45 degrees, do 1 set flat, then 15, then 30, then 45, then 60. dont keep wearing out the same area of your shoulder, spread the load out. when I train 2x a week, one time is pressing, the other time is flying movements or dips (which I can’t really do right now).

Something Pavel talks about is never training to failure and varying your set/rep scheme. heavy/light/medium/light/etc. for weight and total sets, and you can retain your strength.

Last thing I would recommmend is soft tissue work for tight pecs(major/minor) and strengthening scapular/upper back muscles to allow proper scapular and clavicular rythm.

Need to talk to your doc about surgery. From stuff I have read, there are spectrums of magnitude in getting shoulder surgery from a simple scope for calcium deposit removal, to rotator tear, to entirely opening it up cutting the pec and deltoid, and eventually total shoulder replacement. There is so much fibrous capsular structure, I would shy away from anything totally serious like acromion shaving, bursal removal, etc. again get the MRI/catscan and talk to a qualified professional. My surgery was for a labral tear and removal of calcium deposits.