Exercises such as overhead presses help build shoulder strength, but can sometimes lead to pain or discomfort after a workout. Pain in the shoulder after doing overhead presses may not be cause for medical concern, but see your doctor if symptoms worsen or persist. Fortunately, most cases of shoulder pain are preventable and treatable with adjustments to your form and self-care at home.
Pain in the shoulders might occur during exercise or within a few hours of finishing a workout. Some individuals might also experience stiffness, swelling and redness in the shoulder. The pain in the shoulder might be more pronounced or worsen with physical activities that involve movement of the affected arm or shoulder. The pain might persist for hours or days and interfere with sleep.
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Most instances of shoulder pain after doing overhead presses result from overwork of the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the shoulder, leading to a sprain or strain. The sprain or strain in the shoulder could result from too may repetitions, holding a press for too long, improper lifting form or lifting more weight than the body can handle. Injuries to the brachial plexus, a dislocated shoulder, ruptured tendon, tear in cartilage of the shoulder or a rotator cuff injury could also result in pain after doing overhead presses. Other conditions that might cause shoulder pain after doing overhead presses include bursitis, arthritis, infection and cardiovascular disease.
Mild cases of shoulder pain after doing overhead presses are typically treatable at home with self-care measures. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen sodium, as recommended by your doctor, can help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation. Applying an ice pack to the affected shoulder might also help reduce pain after a workout. Pain that worsens, persists or is accompanied by symptoms such as inability to move the shoulder, sudden swelling, chest tightness or difficulty breathing requires immediate medical treatment. These could indicate a medical emergency such as a heart attack.
The Shoulder-Pain-Management website recommends that you slowly build up how much weight you lift during overhead presses to help prevent overuse injuries in the shoulder. Taking a break of a couple of days between workouts that include overhead presses gives the muscles a chance to rest and repair small injuries, which can help prevent the development of pain after a workout. The website also reminds that using proper technique is particularly important for overhead exercises. Avoid locking the elbows when the arms are fully extended at the top of the motion and return the weights to the starting position with a slow and controlled movement. Warming up by stretching the muscles before and after a workout can also help prevent shoulder pain from doing overhead presses.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.