Shoulder Pain When Lifting Arm: Root Cause

January 04, 2021 Active Lifestyle Types of Care

Shoulder Pain When Lifting Arm

The first thing to know is that nobody’s impervious to pain. No matter how strong, mobile or how much you know or conditioned you are, pain will likely come knocking at your door. 

However, what matters is recognizing that pain is often a symptom of dysfunction that typically manifests over months, even years. Therefore, that injury that seemed to come out of nowhere is your body’s way of saying, “Sorry, I couldn’t support this bad position anymore”.

Shoulder Pain 

Shoulder pain is a very common way that this presents itself in the human body.

We spend most of our day in a position where our hands are resting on a keyboard (or holding a phone) with our shoulders rotated forward, mid back rounded and head jutted forward. 

Since it’s not realistic to quit using your phone or keyboard, it’s important to actively rest your shoulders when you stand back up and walk around. To do this, make sure your thumbs are pointed forward. 

Fixing the Posture

When your thumbs are turned in, guess what else is turned in? Your shoulders! When your thumbs are pointed forward, your shoulders now have the chance to retract back…and when your shoulders are back…your head naturally resets and VOILA, better posture! 

Overhead Press Shoulder Pain

In addition to being more mindful of your posture during the day, it’s important to know that any exercise can be modified so you can continue to enjoy all the fitness has to offer. 

On that note, let’s talk about the overhead press as is a common exercise that can expose underlying shoulder impingement. 

Don’t let the term “impingement” scare you. Shoulder pain when lifting an arm common issue with overhead athletes and is fixable. 

If you are currently dealing with impingement, or any other shoulder ailment that is not getting better, then it’s worthwhile to make an appointment with our Portland or Seattle chiropractor team at Tangelo so we can discover the cause of the pain, treat the issue and get you back to living your best life. 

Exercises for Shoulder Pain

Generally speaking, pain in the shoulder during an overhead press doesn’t entirely have to with the shoulder (glenohumeral joint) itself. In order for the humerus head (ball) to move freely within the glenoid fossa (socket), many things have to be in the right position.

  1. First, the thoracic spine needs to extend from its natural slightly rounded position. 
  2. Second, the lower trapezius muscles needs to contract while the pec minor relaxes, allowing the shoulder blades to posterior tilt. 
  3. Third, the upper traps needs to contract to allow for proper upward rotation of the shoulder when pressing overhead. 

Again, all of these things needs to happy harmoniously to preserve healthy space within the shoulder joint. Pretty cool how the body works, huh? 

However, keep in mind that before the pressing motion even begins, you first have to actively extend the thoracic spine and posterior tilt the shoulder. These are particularly tall orders to fill due to the aforementioned posture issues. 

It’s hard for the pec minor, which is a muscle that can pull your shoulder blade forward to relax when your shoulders are rounded. 

Therefore, it would be prudent to sub out the overhead press when an exercise that not only encourages the muscle to relax while still giving you the opportunity to refine your overhead mechanics. What is this magical exercise, you ask? Well it involves the TRX, which you have right next to you in the weight room.

RNT Overhead Press 

This is a wonderful exercise — here are the basics on how it works.

When you apply tension on the straps, the pec minor has to relax because the muscles on the back of the shoulder and lower trap have to turn on to keep the straps taught through the movement. 

Therefore, all you have to think about is keeping the “elbow under the wrist” and push through the good burn. You can also play with different pressing angels to avoid any position that might be causing you pain.