Shoulder Pain from Lifting: Root Causes and Treatment

Written by: Nurudeen Tijani

The article below explains the root causes of shoulder pain from lifting weights. However, if you want an immediate solution, you can get instant access to TitaniumPhysique. Our video program will guide you to a pain-free lifting experience. Ready to get started?

3d Illustration of a Man Feeling Shoulder Pain, holding left shoulder with right arm

KEY TAKEAWAYS


  • Shoulder Pain from Lifting: Athletes experience shoulder pain when lifting weights due to tight muscles in the shoulder, triceps, neck, and upper back that strain and inflame the shoulder tendons.
  • Causes of Pain: The root causes of this pain are chronic inflammation, lack of magnesium, and muscle tightness.
  • Injuries and Conditions: Shoulder issues associated with weight training include rotator cuff injury, shoulder impingement, shoulder blade pain, AC joint pain, biceps tendonitis, bursitis, deltoid pain, weakness, instability, and clicking.
  • Treatment and Prevention: To fix and prevent shoulder problems, keep the shoulder group muscles pliable through self-myofascial release exercises.
  • Concerns with Traditional Solutions: Traditional remedies alleviate symptoms without addressing the root cause of the pain. Holistic solutions like the TitaniumPhysique Program can treat, fix, and prevent shoulder problems.

Shoulder Pain: Why It Happens and How To Fix It


When you lift weights over time, the muscles in the shoulder group can become stiff and tight due to repeated muscular contraction and overuse. These tight shoulder muscles can lead to overstretching, straining, and inflammation of the shoulder tendons and surrounding tissue. This circumstance causes joint, muscle, and tendon pain in the shoulder during exercises such as bench presses, overhead presses, deadlifts, tricep dips, and lateral raises. Shoulder pain is common among athletes and those involved in weight training.

Root Causes of Shoulder Pain


Shoulder pain is common among athletes and those involved in weight training. The root causes of shoulder pain are:

  1. Chronic Inflammation
  2. Magnesium Deficiency
  3. Muscle Restriction
3D Illustration of man with burning shoulder pain and man with knotted muscles

Root Cause #1: Tendonitis and Chronic Inflammation


Weight training builds and strengthens muscles, but it also inflames tendons, ligaments, and joints in the body. When the workout target or involve the shoulders, (e.g. bench press, overhead press, pull-ups, push-ups, bar dips), it inflames the shoulder tendons and joint.

Inflammation of the shoulder tendons causes a "burning" sensation of pain in and around the shoulder joint. The condition is known as shoulder tendonitis, or more specifically rotator cuff tendonitis.

The burning feeling and pain around the shoulder are signs of acute inflammation – meaning the pain is temporary. With time, the body heals the shoulder tendons, and the pain goes away. But, when the shoulder tendons cannot heal and recover, and the inflamed tendon pain continues for three months or more, it becomes a chronic inflammatory condition.

Chronic inflammation is a state where the inflammatory process that enables the body to heal injured muscle, tendon and ligament is not working, and the body is no longer able to heal on its own. In this case, it leads to chronic shoulder tendonitis.

Left untreated, chronic inflammation in the shoulder becomes degenerative and leads to irreversible deterioration of the shoulder joint. Athletes, gymgoers, and weightlifters with shoulder pain experience discomfort in the shoulder during the following:

  • Bench Press
  • Chest Flys
  • Pull-Ups, Push-Ups, Dips
  • Overhead Press
  • Cable Rows
  • Deadlifts
  • Lateral Raises, Front Raises
  • Power Snatch, Cleans, Jerks
  • Upright Rows
  • Shoulder Shrugs

Root Cause #2: Magnesium Deficiency


Calcium helps muscles contract. Magnesium helps muscles relax. When the body has excess calcium (which is often the case), muscles cannot relax and remain tense. When a muscle is tense, it pulls and puts tension on the tendons and joints, which inflames the tendons and causes pain, in this case – shoulder pain.

Magnesium also dissolves calcium and prevents the calcification of soft tissues. Calcification occurs when there is excess calcium in the body. Calcification hardens soft tissues like tendons and muscles. In this case, calcification of the rotator cuff and deltoid muscles leads to rotator cuff tendonitis and shoulder tendonitis, respectively.

According to The Magnesium Miracle (which is a scientific reference on the health effects of magnesium on the body), heavy exercise, physical activity, and factors such as caffeine, stimulants, diuretics, stress, and dehydration, deplete magnesium in athletes. As such, it is crucial for athletes and those involved in weight training to actively replenish magnesium in the body.

40% of magnesium in the body is found in the muscles. Twitching muscles, muscle cramps and muscle spasms are signs of low magnesium levels in the body.

The Magnesium Miracle - Discover the Missing Link to Total Health, By Carolyn Dean, MD, ND

Root Cause #3: Muscle Restriction


Illustration of knotted trigger points muscles, musculoskeletal pain in human muscle anatomy

When you lift weights and perform exercises that target or involve the shoulders, the shoulder group muscles (deltoids, trapezius, rhomboids, and rotator cuff) muscles contract, become stiff and tight, and after some time, lose their elasticity. Muscle restriction occurs when inelastic muscle fibers become shortened and unable to release and lengthen back to their normal relaxed state.

In the case of shoulder pain, lifting a weight too heavy, or using bad form overstretches the shoulder muscles and causes them to become restricted. This is usually the trigger that initiates the Shoulder pain. When the deltoids and rotator cuffs get restricted, they become shortened and get tighter.

Tight deltoids and rotator cuffs pull and put tension on the shoulder tendons. As a result, it inflames the shoulder tendons and joint. Further, it causes shoulder pain when lifting weights or during exercise - and in some cases, it also causes instability and a feeling of weakness in the shoulder. 

Athletes, gymgoers, and weight lifters with restricted shoulder muscles experience:

  • Sharp or severe pain in shoulder while lifting
  • Burning pain in shoulder joint after lifting
  • Instability and a feeling of weakness in shoulder when lifting
  • Shoulder AC joint pain and swelling after lifting
  • Difficulty and pain moving shoulder after working out
  • Clicking and popping of shoulder AC joint after lifting 

TAKEAWAY: Root Causes of Shoulder Problems

  1. Inflammatory tendon pain (caused by strain and inflammation of the shoulder tendons)
  2. Muscle pain (caused by stiff, tight, and restricted deltoids and rotator cuff muscles)
  3. Magnesium deficiency (which causes muscle pain and tendon pain)

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Nurudeen Tijani, founder of TitaniumPhysique

Shoulder Injuries, Conditions, and Symptoms


The shoulder is a dynamic joint. Multiple muscles support and stabilize the shoulder to enable a wide range of motion in the shoulder. These collective group of muscles, the shoulder group muscles, include the following: trapezius, deltoids, rotator cuff (infraspinatus, supraspinatus, subscapularis, teres minor), teres major, rhomboids, and serratus posterior superior.

In addition to the shoulder group muscles, the following muscles influence shoulder mobility: latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major, serratus anterior, levator scapulae, triceps, and biceps.

When one of these muscles becomes injured or restricted, the remaining muscles compensate by working harder. Ultimately, this causes the entire shoulder muscle group to become dysfunctional – meaning they don’t function as intended. This circumstance leads to a series of degenerative shoulder injuries and conditions.

This section of the article will cover the types of shoulder injuries and conditions athletes experience, including:

  1. Frozen Shoulder
  2. Rotator Cuff Injury
  3. Shoulder Impingement
  4. Shoulder Blade Pain
  5. AC Joint Pain
  6. Biceps Tendonitis
  7. Shoulder Tendonitis
  8. Shoulder Bursitis
  9. Deltoid Pain
    Muscles anatomy of shoulder group muscles, arm, back, and neck

    Muscle Anatomy Chart of the Shoulder and Arm. Key muscles highlighted on the chart include the deltoids, and rotator cuff muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis), trapezius, latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major, triceps brachii, rhomboids, and lavetor scapulae. The shoulder, arm, neck, and back muscles contribute to shoulder tendonitis, pain, weakness, and instability.

    Frozen Shoulder


    Frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, is indicated by stiffness and restricted mobility in the shoulder joint. It is often associated with aging. However, in athletes and weight lifters, it develops after an injury, surgery, or sudden trauma to the shoulder that immobilizes the shoulder for an extended time. The condition often develops gradually and can be linked to inflammation and thickening of the shoulder capsule. Individuals experience pain and difficulty lifting their arms.

    Rotator Cuff Injury


    Rotator cuff (RC) injuries involve damage to the muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff comprises four key muscles—supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis—each playing a crucial role in shoulder stability and function. These collective muscles not only facilitate various shoulder movements but also serve to support and stabilize the scapula. When these rotator cuff muscles become restricted or injured, it can result in pain, weakness, instability, and limited shoulder mobility.

    Push, Pull, and overhead exercises that overload the rotator cuff can cause RC injuries. These exercises include bench presses, overhead presses, push-ups, pull-ups, rows, or lat pulldowns.

    Shoulder Impingement


    Inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons leads to the thickening of the tendon. Shoulder impingement occurs when the inflamed and thickened rotator cuff tendons get trapped and squeezed under the acromion (where the scapula and the head of the humerus intersect). This condition can lead to pain, inflammation, and reduced function. Shoulder impingement is a degenerative shoulder condition that indicates the shoulder group muscle is dysfunctional.

    For weight-lifting athletes, shoulder impingement interferes with overhead exercises such as shoulder press, tricep dip, snatch, overhead squat, clean and press, upright row, and front or lateral raise.

    Scapula (Shoulder Blade Pain)


    Shoulder blade pain, or scapula pain, is indicated by a sharp or dull ache between the shoulder blades. The dynamic movements of the scapula involve several muscles, including the rhomboids, serratus anterior, teres major, trapezius, the long head of the triceps muscle, levator scapulae, and the rotator cuff muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis).

    When any of these muscles become restricted, it can lead to pain between and around the scapula. However, the primary culprits contributing to pain between the shoulder blades are often the rhomboids, serratus anterior, and trapezius. Conditions like nerve compression in the spine may also contribute to discomfort near the scapula.

    Pull exercises that overload the rhomboids, serratus anterior, and trapezius can trigger scapula pain. These exercises include lat pulldowns, pull-ups, deadlifts, shoulder shrugs, rows (cable, bent-over, T-bar), and dumbbell flys.

    AC Joint Pain


    AC joint pain involves discomfort at the acromioclavicular joint, where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade. It is due to irritation, inflammation, tear, or stretching of the ligaments that attach the acromion to the clavicle (called the acromioclavicular ligament).

    It can occur as a result of trauma, such as a direct impact to the shoulder. In athletes, it is often a degenerative shoulder condition, indicating dysfunction in the shoulder group and surrounding muscles. This condition can result in pain, weakness, swelling, and AC joint separation. Depending on the level of the injury, it can cause mild to severe pain, weakness, swelling, separation, and a visible lump or bump on top of the shoulder at the AC joint.

    Any muscle that attaches to the clavicle or scapula can contribute to the development of AC joint pain and separation. The primary muscles involved include the pectoral, trapezius, and deltoid.

    For weight-lifting athletes, AC joint pain can interfere with chest, back, and shoulder exercises, including overhead presses, dips, push-ups, snatch, bench press, clean and press, front or lateral raises, rows, chest fly, and lat pulldowns.

    Biceps Tendonitis


    Biceps tendonitis is inflammation of the long biceps tendon, leading to pain and swelling in the front of the shoulder. For athletes, it is often a result of restricted biceps muscles that strain the biceps tendon at the attachment in front of the shoulder joints. This condition can lead to minor tears or complete rupture of the bicep tendons and contribute to degenerative shoulder problems.

    For weight-lifting athletes, bicep tendonitis can interfere with chest, bicep, tricep, back, and shoulder exercises, including bicep curls, overhead presses, push-ups, bench presses, front or lateral raises, rows, and lat pulldowns.

    Shoulder Tendonitis


    Shoulder tendonitis, or rotator cuff tendinopathy, is inflammation of the tendons surrounding the shoulder joint. Tendinopathy of the shoulder refers to a collective group of shoulder issues, including bicep tendonitis, bursitis, impingement syndrome, rotator cuff injury, and tears. The affected tendons, including the rotator cuff and biceps, play crucial roles in shoulder movement and stability.

    Athletes with shoulder tendonitis can experience mild to severe pain during exercises that involve the shoulder, such as bench presses, shoulder presses, bicep curls, push-ups, pull-ups, and upright rows.

    Shoulder Bursitis


    Shoulder bursitis is the inflammation of the bursa sacs surrounding the shoulder joint. Shoulder tendonitis or inflammation of the biceps and rotator cuff tendon often leads to this condition. In weight training, exercises that require frequent overhead reaching may lead to impingement and bursitis. This condition causes pain when the arm is overhead, resulting in limited mobility. Shoulder bursitis is a degenerative condition indicating the shoulder group muscle is dysfunctional.

    For weight-lifting athletes, shoulder bursitis can interfere with chest and shoulder workouts, including overhead presses, front or lateral raises, rows, lat pulldowns, tricep dips, snatches, clean and press, and upright rows.

    Deltoid Pain


    Deltoid pain occurs from restriction in the deltoid muscles. The muscles that cause this pain include the front, middle, and posterior deltoids. Athletes may experience strain and pain during shoulder and chest exercises that excessively strain the deltoids. These exercises include bench press, front or lateral raise, upright row, cable row, lat pulldown, overhead squat, and shoulder press. This condition can lead to degenerative shoulder injuries and conditions.

    Ready to start lifting without pain or injury?

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    Nurudeen Tijani, founder of TitaniumPhysique
    nurudeen performing flat barbell bench press

    Nurudeen Tijani performing barbell bench press during chest workout at gym (2019). "Push" exercises such as bench press involve the pectorals, deltoids, trapezius, and rotator cuffs muscles, and can aggravate shoulder pain in athletes and weightlifters.

    Nurudeen Tijani working out shoulder and arms doing shoulder press with barbell in gym

    Nurudeen Tijani performing seated barbell shoulder press at gym (2019). "Push" exercises such as shoulder press involve the trapezius, deltoids, pectoral muscles, and rhomboids, and can aggravate shoulder pain.

    Nurudeen performing clean and press exercise at gym

    Nurudeen Tijani performing Clean and Press exercise at gym (2020). "Push and Push" exercises such as Clean and Press, Power Snatch, and Power Clean involve the trapezius, deltoids, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi (Lats), and rotator cuff muscles, and can aggravate shoulder pain.

    Nurudeen performing a variation of pull-ups and chin-ups

    Nurudeen Tijani performing variations of pull-ups and chin-ups at gym (2020). Wide-Grip Rear Pull-Ups, Wide-Grip Pull-Ups, and Close-Grip Chin-Ups. "Pull" exercises such as pull-ups and chin-ups involve the deltoids, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi (Lats), and rotator cuff muscles, and can aggravate shoulder pain.

    Nurudeen performing standard push-ups exercise

    Nurudeen Tijani performing standard push-ups at gym (2020). "Push" exercises such as push-ups involve the pectorals, rhomboids, trapezius, deltoids, and rotator cuff muscles, and can aggravate shoulder pain in athletes.

    Ready to start lifting without pain or injury?

    Get instant access to TitaniumPhysique. My program will guide you to a pain-free lifting experience.

    Nurudeen Tijani, founder of TitaniumPhysique

    How To Fix and Prevent Shoulder Pain (3-Step Process)


    What is TitaniumPhysique? It is a fast and effective way to fix and counteract chronic tendonitis and pain from lifting weights, including:

    1. Sharp or severe pain in the shoulder while lifting
    2. Burning pain in the shoulder joint after lifting
    3. Instability and a feeling of weakness in the shoulder when lifting
    4. Shoulder AC joint pain and swelling after lifting
    5. Difficulty and pain moving shoulder after working out
    6. Clicking and popping of shoulder AC joint after lifting 

    It is based on current and extensive scientific research relating to the following: tendinopathy, sports medicine and sports injury, musculoskeletal pain treatment and management, nutrition, supplementation, and, strength therapy and conditioning.

    As an athlete and weightlifter, I created the TitaniumPhysique Program for anyone involved in physical activity like weight training.

    I've combined these scientific studies and nine years of experience as a personal trainer, nutritionist, bodybuilder, physique athlete, and wellness coach to create the TitaniumPhysique Formula.

    To learn how and why the TitaniumPhysique Formula works, check out this comprehensive how-to guide on tendonitis.

    Here is an overview of how to fix shoulder problems using TitaniumPhysique:

    1. Reduce chronic inflammation in the body. When you reduce chronic inflammation, injured and inflamed shoulder tendons heal and recover faster.
    2. Supplement with magnesium to replenish muscle magnesium levels. Magnesium reduces inflammation and pain, relaxes tense shoulder muscles, and decalcifies the shoulder tendons and shoulder joints.
    3. Massage the shoulder group muscles. You can use myofascial pain relief tools, like a massage ball, to massage and release the shoulder muscles (trapezius, deltoids, rotator cuffs, rhomboids, serratus posterior, erectors).

    The rest of this article will focus on step three of the TitaniumPhysique Program: how to use myofascial release to alleviate shoulder problems.

    Release Restricted Shoulder Muscles to Feel Better


    Restricted shoulder group muscles pull and put tension on the shoulder tendons and shoulder joint, which causes shoulder pain. When you release tight muscles in the shoulder (e.g. deltoids, trapezius, rhomboids, infraspinatus, and rotator cuffs), it will increase elasticity in the shoulder tendons and immediately reduce shoulder pain.

    Step 3 of the TitaniumPhysique Formula focuses on releasing chronically tight and restricted shoulder muscles to stimulate repair and fix shoulder pain.

    Chronic shoulder tendonitis cannot heal if the body is in a constant inflammatory state. After reducing chronic inflammation, we can heal shoulder injuries easier and faster.

    Photo collage of steps to fix shoulder pain

    Shoulder Pain Treatment Exercises


    Restricted shoulder group muscles (that cause shoulder pain) develop over many years. As such, it is necessary to use the correct treatment technique to get the best results. During this process, it is also vital to strengthen the shoulder, by doing mobility and strengthening exercises for the shoulder joint.

    Strengthening exercises are therapeutic and can help the shoulder tendons heal faster and regain full strength for maximum performance. Mobility exercises for shoulder pain include:

    • Scapula Retraction Exercise (targets the rhomboids to stabilize the shoulder blade)
    • Open Book Exercise
    • Standing or Side-Lying External Rotator (targets the infraspinatus to stabilize the shoulder)

    My TitaniumPhysique Program consists of videos to release restricted shoulder muscles and mobility exercises to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder joint.

    Self-Myofascial Release Tools for Shoulder Relief


    Myofascial release tools for shoulder pain

    Self-myofascial release (SMR) tools can effectively release tight shoulder muscles and fix shoulder pain. If you experience shoulder discomfort during bench presses, push-ups, pull-ups, shoulder presses, or lateral raises, these tools will help.

    The Theracane can release the rotator cuffs, upper trapezius, and levator scapulae. The massage ball can release the deltoid and pectoral muscles. The rumble roller can release the lats. The PSO-rite can release the rhomboids and lower trapezius.

    These tools treat shoulder pain and relieve the shoulder tendon and joint by releasing restricted muscles.

    Summary


    Restricted shoulder group muscles pull and put tension on the shoulder tendons. As a result, the shoulder tendons become inflamed and cause pain during exercise or after lifting weights. The ROOT causes of shoulder pain from lifting weights are chronic inflammation, magnesium deficiency, and muscle restriction.

    Athletes and weight lifters with shoulder tendonitis experience the following when lifting or after working out:

    1. Sharp or severe pain in the shoulder
    2. Burning pain in the shoulder joint
    3. Instability and a feeling of weakness in the shoulder
    4. Shoulder AC joint pain and swelling
    5. Difficulty and pain moving shoulder
    6. Clicking and popping of shoulder AC joint 

    Traditional remedies like painkillers, joint supplements, shoulder braces, and topical anti-inflammatory creams can help with acute shoulder tendonitis but are not effective in treating chronic shoulder tendonitis. With traditional remedies, the tendonitis comes back and often gets worse as you continue to lift.

    To fix chronic tendonitis and shoulder problems:

    1. Reduce chronic inflammation
    2. Replenish muscle magnesium levels
    3. Release restricted muscles

    The TitaniumPhysique program will show you the fastest way to reduce chronic inflammation, replenish muscle magnesium levels, and release restricted muscles. It can help you get rid of and prevent injuries from weight training.

    Tendonitis can turn your passion for fitness into a chore and rob you of the motivation to work out. Yet, everyone who lifts weights experiences shoulder tendonitis at some point. You don't have to give up your passion for lifting because of ineffective traditional tendonitis remedies.

    Ready to get started with TitaniumPhysique? Yes, I'm ready to eliminate pain.

    References

    • Understanding and Managing Chronic Inflammation
    https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-inflammation

    • The Magnesium Miracle (Second Edition) - Discover the Missing Link to Total Health, By Carolyn Dean, MD, ND
    https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Magnesium_Miracle_Second_Edition/2lBcDAAAQBAJ

    • Calcification
    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002321.htm

    • The China Study Solution - The Simple Way to Lose Weight and Reverse Illness, Using a Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet
    https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_China_Study_Solution/nrazCwAAQBAJ

    • The Acid Alkaline Balance
    https://www.pccmarkets.com/sound-consumer/2009-10/sc0910-acid-alkaline/

    TitaniumPhysique
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    A complete self-treatment program for joint aches, muscle pain, and tendonitis injuries. Created by athletes, for athletes.

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    This program can help treat and fix:

    Treat shoulder tendinopathy
    Biceps tendonitis
    AC joint pain (clicking, swelling)
    Deltoid muscle pain
    Rotator cuff injuries and pain
    Shoulder blade pain (scapula)
    Prevent shoulder injuries
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