Dr. Paul E. Caldwell, Arthroscopy and Sports Medicine, Tuckahoe Orthopaedics, Ortho, OrthopaedicsBy Paul E. Caldwell, MD 

Whether you’re in the gym or taking part in an active sport, the last thing you want to be worried about is feeling pain. This is especially true for shoulder pain, because of how much you use your shoulders when you are working out.

Let’s take a look at shoulder pain, how it affects you, and how careful adjustments to your workout routine can help alleviate the pain.

You Should Take Shoulder Pain Seriously

Unresolved shoulder pain can lead to larger problems, or be due to structural issues, such as a rotator cuff tear. This is another reason why you should always pay attention to your body rather than fighting through the pain.

Your shoulder pain should not linger for more than a day or two after a workout. It is especially concerning if it is a sharp pain, versus general soreness. A good rule of thumb is that if the pain keeps you up at night, it’s pain you can’t work through.

The mistake many people make is that they continue to be active and therefore continue to do further damage. After all, it’s one thing if a muscle is sore. But it is another thing entirely if the joint is sore or you’re dealing with a structural issue.

Be mindful of what your body is telling you. If the pain doesn’t go away soon after a workout, it could be problematic.

The Causes of Shoulder Pain

The majority of shoulder injuries that occur during workouts happen to those who are deconditioned, meaning they aren’t in good enough shape to do those exercises.

Typically, these people make the mistake of jumping into an exercise program that they bought online or saw on TV. While it is great that they have a desire to be healthier, their bodies are not ready for an intense workout yet.

There are also those who injure their shoulders when they lifting weights over their heads while using an improper form. This is common among beginners who do not know that they are doing the exercises incorrectly.

Overhead presses and behind the neck pull downs are the most common exercises that cause shoulder injuries. That’s why doctors recommend that beginners work with a trainer or other professional to learn how to do these exercises correctly.  Before you start an upper extremity workout program, make sure you’re getting assistance on your form.

Shoulder Pain Can Arrive in Different Ways

It’s very common for pain in the shoulder to worsen at night, with patients noticing they’re unable to sleep on that shoulder or arm.

The pain subsides during the day but it aches at night and often radiates down toward the elbow. This may make it easy to misinterpret as biceps/triceps or deltoid muscle pain.

It’s important to note that your experience may differ depending on your age. For example, some younger patients might report a pop or snap in their shoulder when a structural issue arises. For many older patients, it’s through repetition of a movement that they start to feel shoulder pain.

Either way, if it’s a structural issue like a torn rotator cuff, the patient will experience a loss of strength in the shoulder. While the patient’s hand usually responds normally, the issues are felt in the shoulder itself. It’s very difficult for a patient to differentiate between the small and larger muscles in the shoulder and know what the issue is without seeing a doctor.

Ways to Protect Yourself From Shoulder Injuries

The best way to make sure that you’re not putting your shoulder at risk is to talk to a doctor before starting a specific exercise program. You should avoid jumping into something that may be beyond your ability.

It’s also important to have professional guidance as far as your form. Start out with low weights and high repetitions and move up gradually. Next, make sure that you are warming up and stretching before any workout. This should include dynamic warm ups, which include more motion than just static stretching.

Lastly, if you start to feel pain in your shoulders, you should modify your activity. If it persists, stop working out altogether. If pain continues, try anti-inflammatory medications but do not use them to work through the pain.

You should always see a doctor if you experience continued pain for several days. If you’ve been dealing with ongoing pain in your shoulder, contact Tuckahoe Orthopaedics today.

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