Imagine this scenario: You are feeling pain in your shoulder. No big deal – you’ll push through and continue to work out as normal, and your shoulder will eventually heal- right?
Unfortunately, that’s probably not the case.
Any type of pain in your shoulder is bad; it means you have sustained an injury that requires treatment to heal properly. Failing to do so might mean your shoulder heals improperly – or never heals – and you could continue to feel pain for the rest of your life.
Injury is the greatest fear of every athlete because even minor injuries can keep athletes out of the gym, off the track, and even on their backs for several weeks. Not only do injuries thwart progress but they prevent maintenance as well.
The sooner you can diagnose your shoulder trouble, the sooner you can start treatment- and the sooner you can get back to training normally!
Here are three types of shoulder pains to help you understand your injury better.
Aching pain is when your pain is dull and “achy,” and it doesn’t seem to come from a single point.
Instead, it seems that all the tissues in your shoulder throb with pain regardless of your activity.
You might also feel stiffness in the joint and an inability to freely move your shoulder like you are accustomed to. If these symptoms match your experience, you might have one of the following shoulder injuries:
The precise cause of this condition is unknown, but it often plagues women between the ages of 40 and 60. The most obvious symptoms are achiness and immobility.
With time, your shoulder will “thaw,” but it should “melt” faster with some targeted physical therapy. Until you regain mobility in your shoulder, you shouldn’t push it in workouts.
This condition is called glenohumeral osteoarthritis because it is the arthritic inflammation of the shoulder joint. Your pain might be centered more toward the back of the shoulder, and over time, your symptoms could get worse.
Most often, men and women over 50 experience arthritis, but you might suffer this condition if you have dislocated or fractured your shoulder in the past.
Because osteoarthritis is degenerative, you should avoid strenuous and weight-bearing exercises that use your shoulder.
During exercise, you might have torn the tendons of your rotator cuff or the cartilage around your shoulder’s socket. If this is the case, you need medical help immediately.
A doctor will assess the severity of the tear and determine whether you need surgery to clean and repair the injury. You will need between six and eight weeks of rest before you begin physical therapy to rebuild strength in your shoulder slowly.
If your shoulder pain branches out like lightning to different areas of your body, perhaps down your arm, up your neck or across your back, you have “radiating pain.”
If you have radiating pain in your shoulder, you are likely enduring one (or more) of the following conditions:
Unlike osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative disease that is impossible to stop completely, standard arthritis is merely inflammation of the joint.
Overuse most often causes arthritis in the shoulder joint, so resting your shoulder, applying ice and taking anti-inflammatory medications for a couple of weeks should relieve your pain.
After you treat the initial pain of arthritis symptoms, you should slowly move back into shoulder exercises, being sure to focus on mobility as opposed to strength.
Tendonitis is another repetition injury, and it is one most often seen injuries in weightlifters and swimmers.
Rotator cuff tendonitis is the inflammation of the tendons holding your shoulder together, and unless you rest, you risk severing your tendons which will require much more intensive recovery.
If you want to continue to exercise even with shoulder tendonitis, you should try a new type of exercise for a few weeks while you shoulder recovers. For example, one easy change you can make is to stop using the barbell bench press, and begin using the DB floor press.
If a nerve gets trapped between muscles, connective tissues, or bones in your neck or shoulder, you’ll feel pain. This condition is another that requires medical intervention. Shoulder nerve pain can be chronic, so you should see a specialist for treatment options.
If your shoulder feels like it is on fire or at least slowly roasting over hot coals, you have “burning pain.” Burning pain can be difficult to discern from achy pain, but you might be able to tell the difference due to a sensation of warmth (even if your shoulder’s temperature isn’t hotter than the rest of your body).
There is truly only one condition that causes burning pain in the shoulder:
The bursae are fluid-filled sacs between muscles and around joints that prevent friction and allows your body’s tissues to slide and glide. However, if a joint is overused, the bursa can overfill- resulting in painful inflammation and immobility.
Sometimes, bursitis accompanies other shoulder injuries, like rotator cuff tears.
Bursitis is only treatable with medical intervention, so you should see your doctor if you suspect this condition.
If you are suffering from bursitis alone, you will likely enjoy a speedy recovery, but you should avoid the repetitive workouts that caused the problem!