T Nation

What the Hell is Wrong w/ My Shoulder?


Hey guys, just want to see what you think of my left shoulder. I have slight scoliosis. I have also had problems with thoracic outlet syndrome but I strengthened my traps and rotator cuff and its come good. I also fell 6ft out of a tree 10 years ago and landed on my back.

I noticed that whenever I do any overhead pressing I get pain in my left front deltoid and it feels like my left shoulder doesn't "sit" it the joint at the top of the press.

Will this structural imbalance affect my training and is there any exercises you can recommend?

In this first pic I'm not raising my left shoulder, that's the way it is.


Heres another pic




Try this test out. Lie on your back and lay your arms up overhead close to your head, relaxed. Take a picture of it if you can. Do not force your arms to stay straight.


What injuries resulted from the fall? Any imaging done at that time frame? Any injuries since the fall?

What are you doing during the first picture? Trying to retract your scapula?

The second picture is obviously a completely relaxed pose and the third is with shoulders (fully?) flexed.


Right side


Left side


I had no injuries from the fall, just a bit of upper back pain every now and then. I had an x-ray taken a few years ago, I could see the scoliosis in the upper back around T3 and my doc said I might have fractured a rib around that area.

In the first pic I am twisting my arms out and kind of protracting my scapula. I did this because I noticed that my left shoulder is higher than the right.

In the third pic I have my palms facing each other and I have tried to pull my shoulder down and back into the joint.


From your supine pictures, you are lacking full shoulder flexion in your left shoulder, which could be lat dorsi related, thoracic mobility issues, scapular dysfunction, or a host of other things.

Did the doctor say if your scoliosis functional or structural?

From the pictures you've posted and information you've given, I'm thinking you may have a rib dysfunction occurring. Flaring of a rib can cause thoracic mobility issues, which then can cause one shoulder to become depressed or elevated. Again this is purely speculative based off of your photos and information given and without a physical exam it is very difficult to give a concrete answer.


Here is another photo and I am pushing against the wall in the second photo. My left scapula looks a bit funky.
Thanks for your response LevelHeaded, I will get this checked out. The doctor did not say what type of scoliosis I have. I really want to get into weight training but I have always felt that my left shoulder was not quite right. I will get it checked out to make sure I do not really screw it up. Thanks.


Looks to me from the supine pictures you have a tight teres major, lat, and possibly subscapularis. You notice your flexibility seems to be much worse on the left side which is the side you have been inquiring about.

I think the problem with your left shoulder is largely subscapularis and the internally rotated humerus is dragging the shoulder forward. Pec minor is also probably tight on that side... I'd work on dynamically stretching those areas. ART wouldn't hurt either.


Thank you Shadowzz4, I will stretch these muscles. I have done some research and I think my left shoulder is raising because of tight rotator cuff muscles combined with weak lower and mid traps. I will work on this and hopefully in a few months I will have some before and after pictures. Thanks again


Anytime. Keep in mind this is probably more of an issue of tightness rather than weakness at this point. While strengthening the posterior muscles you mentioned wouldn't hurt, gaining some rom is going to be the bigger issue.


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Wow. Thats pretty inflammatory there bud. I don't claim to be an expert, but I do think I know a good deal about these issues. I'm giving my opinion over a message board, and it certaintly isn't harmful. What did I recommend? Dynamically stretching those areas and ART. Are either of those going to cause a problem? No. I have a bachelors in Exercise Science and a CSCS, and I have no soft tissue degree or certification, everything I say I've tested on my clients and recommended they do the same, most make very good progress. Some have other problems different than I mention.

The subscapularis will also resist shoulder flexion when short. Is that not true? I also mention the teres major as a possible culprit. Is it not possible the teres major is tight? You know enough to know I could be correct about these issues, you just don't like the way I said it. Pec minor tightness and poor subscapularis quality are often found together.

I've done alot of close work with ART providers as I work with one and another is across the street. I also read alot, and have a solid understanding of these problems.

I understand if you dont think I'm qualified to be making these statements. My question to you is, are those issues I discussed possible problems looking at the pictures? I also don't agree with you about the discrepancy side to side, both shoulders have trouble entering full flexion, and the left side IS significantly worse. Another thing to think about. Though you are certified I imagine as a chiro or something, you haven't spent the time I have spent thinking about shoulder flexibility as it relates to reaching full flexion of that joint.

You say his pec minor is tight because something seems to be inhibiting his serratus? How about because his left shoulder is obviously higher in that one posterior pic, which often indicates a disfunctional shoulder and almost always pec minor tightness.

My helpful suggestion doesn't seem nearly as arrogant as your slanderous response. I'll admit you could be right and the subscap and teres major may not be an issue, if there is one issue it probably is pec minor. However, as I said before, I believe those other two muscles are possible culprits given the pictures, is that not possible, do the teres major and subscap not resist shoulder flexion/abduction when tight?


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I want to thank both BBB and Shadowzz4 for your input and I dont want to cause any trouble. I know that its a bit risky giving advice over a forum as you cannot give a complete assessment. And while a little knowledge can be dangerous, it does help point to the direction of some sort of solution.

I went to an osteopath to see what was wrong and he said that my shoulder and scapula aint that bad. I think thats a fair statement for the common folk who think exercise is a walk around the block. But if you want to do weights and push your body to its limits then I think its a crap statement.

I have done a little research and I have a simple understanding of the shoulder. What I have taken from your suggestions and my research is to stretch the pec minor and to strengthen the lower/mid traps. Im sure this wont hurt things and I hope they will help. I know that something does not feel right about my left shoulder, so I will do these things and see how it goes.

I do have another question though, I was wondering about overhead exercises such as shoulder press and chin ups, should I be weary of these as I dont have full shoulder flexion?


Thanks again


Heres another pic where I my arms are crossed over my chest. In the second pic I am pulling my shoulders down. You can see how my right scapula moves but the left stays the same, what do you think?


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