CLINIC: Minimizing Rotator Cuff Pain During Presses

Wed, 22 Aug. 2012 - 7:37 p.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association

QUESTION:
When I perform the military press during my regular weight training, I experience pain in my shoulders. I have had arthroscopic surgery on one shoulder twice, due to an injury to the rotator cuff 15 years ago. However, the pain from the military press is in both shoulders. I am 46 and have been lifting weights since my early teens. As I have gotten older, I’ve reduced the amount of weight I lift. Still, I would rather not give up the military press, unless you know of a weight training exercise that would give me similar, pain-free results to the same muscle group. I did notice that if I skip a week of weight training, I can usually resume the routine pain-free.
 
David Liden
Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY
 
ANSWER:
Even though both were performed on just one shoulder, the two previous surgeries have no doubt complicated your situation. And even a successful surgery will leave scar tissue in the shoulder joint. Regardless of surgery, many people feel pain in their rotator cuff when they lift their arms above their head, a phenomenon known as shoulder impingement syndrome. The military press would certainly qualify as an exacerbating activity.
 
You can take action on several fronts to help your condition. For starters, pay strict attention to posture. Try to keep your shoulders from drooping forward throughout the day. If you have not been performing seated rows or reverse flies, add them to your routine. These are scapular retraction exercises, which should help. Eliminate movements that aggravate your shoulders; though you should perform shoulder and chest stretches on a daily basis, only stretch to a point that does not aggravate them. Replace bench presses with incline bench presses, at least for the time being. In lieu of the military press, do front, lateral, and posterior raises, again hopefully just for now.
 
Be sure to give it six to eight weeks. If after that your symptoms persist, you may need more intensive therapeutic treatment and I suggest scheduling a visit with a sports medicine specialist.
 
Doug Lentz, CSCS
Chambersburg, PA
 
 
 
ANSWER:
The rotator cuff muscles provide the stability your shoulder needs to perform the movements created by the prime movers of the joint. As you engage in a strengthening program that includes shoulder presses, your larger shoulder muscles become stronger and create a greater imbalance of strength between them and the rotator cuff muscles. To continue with shoulder presses, you could try altering your range of motion, the angle at which you press, and your hand position, any one of which may take the burden off the shoulder that had the surgeries. You can accomplish this using dumbbells instead of a machine, which has a fixed path of movement. As noted above, a regimen of rotator cuff strengthening exercises should be added to your program. A visit to an orthopedist would help you both receive a proper diagnosis and get more details on which exercises to add.
 
Greg Tymon, MEd, CSCS
East Stroudsburg, PA

(RUNNING & FITNEWS® March / April 2010 • Volume 28, Number 2)

DISCLAIMER: The medical information on this site is provided as an information resource only and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition.
The American Running Association (ARA) and its Clinic Advisory Board disclaims responsibility and shall have no liability for any consequences suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site. ARA does not endorse specifically any test, treatment, or procedure mentioned on this site.




Latest News
Luxury Cruise Fitness: It Can Be Done
Luxury Cruise Fitness: It Can Be Done

Aug 02 1:02 p.m.

Article by: Jeff Venables

Comrades Ultra - Loose and Fun = Success
Comrades Ultra - Loose and Fun = Success

Jun 04 12:26 p.m.

Article by: Rick Ganzi, M.D.

Young Milers in Anaheim CA love running
Young Milers in Anaheim CA love running

May 15 3:03 p.m.

Article by: Jeff Venables

Catch Them If You Can
Catch Them If You Can

Apr 08 7:22 p.m.

Article by: Jeff Venables

New Roles of Sports Chiropractic
New Roles of Sports Chiropractic

Feb 21 11:15 a.m.

Article by: Jeff Venables