Your shoulders affect arm movement and provide stability to your arm workouts. Your shoulder blade pain after a workout may not be the result of an injury. Shoulder pain could be due to a muscle imbalance, but if redness, swelling or heat accompany your pain, you may have injured your shoulder.
Can Weights Cause Shoulder Pain?
There is always a risk that you will hurt yourself when lifting weights. However, if you know your weight limits, warm up first and make sure you regularly exercise all major muscles, you can significantly reduce your risk of injury.
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A shoulder injury, or shoulder pain, can occur both when you are working other areas of your upper body and when you are directly working out your shoulder muscles. For example, you could experience shoulder blade pain when bench pressing, because it works more muscles than just your chest.
The reason for this is that the shoulders help to control the weight as you lower it back towards your chest. If your shoulders are not as strong as your chest, you could hurt your shoulder as the weight lowers to your chest.
Read more: Bench Pressing Causing Shoulder Pain
In addition, the shoulders help stabilize your arms. This means that you can inadvertently strain or pull your shoulder muscle when lifting a heavy weight that causes you to lose form. Lifting lighter weights, or ones within your ability level, can help prevent strains to the shoulders.
Finally, you can cause muscle fatigue, soreness and possible injury through lifting with your shoulder muscles directly. Shoulder presses, side and front raises and shoulder flies all work various parts of your shoulders. The resulting workout can cause soreness in the muscles and shoulder blades that can last for a few days after the workout.
In some cases, shoulder pain may be a medical emergency. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should seek emergency medical attention if the shoulder pain is accompanied by chest tightness or difficulty breathing. You should also seek immediate medical attention if your shoulder joint is visibly deformed, you experience intense pain or swelling or you can't use your arm.
How to Prevent Shoulder Pain
Whenever you lift, you run a risk of injuring yourself, such as by pulling or straining a muscle. There are some general steps you can take to prevent injury during weight lifting. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, steps you can take to reduce your risk of injury include:
- using proper lifting techniques
- lightening your weight if you find it difficult to maintain correct form
- checking equipment for damage before lifting
- wearing supportive, non-slip shoes
- keeping your back straight when lifting
- using a spotter as needed
In some cases, you may not be able to prevent shoulder pain. If you have a musculoskeletal issue, such as scapular dyskinesis, the altered movement pattern and placement of the shoulder blade can cause pain when you lift weights or move heavy objects.
You should be able to prevent shoulder pain by taking a few preventative steps. One of the first things you should do before lifting is warm up properly. According to the Mayo Clinic, warming up helps get your blood flowing and prepares your muscles for the workout ahead, which helps prevent injuries such as strains or pulls.
Read more: Shoulder Pain From Weightlifting
You should also lift within your limits. According to the Australian Institute of Fitness, you are lifting too much weight if you can only do between 1 and 6 reps at the current weight.
However, don't go too light with your weight either. According to the American Council on Exercise, lifting heavier weights provides more benefit than lifting lighter weights. They indicate that lifting heavier weights can help improve your strength, help grow your muscles and help your resting metabolism.
Finally, you should take care to not cause a muscle imbalance. A muscle imbalance occurs when one muscle group or another is significantly stronger than its opposing muscle group. Your biceps work opposite your triceps, and your shoulders work opposite your chest during a bench press. Shoulder blade pain from bench pressing can result if your shoulders are not as strong as your chest, and you lift more weight than the back of your shoulders can support.
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "Weight-Training and Weight-Lifting Safety"
- American Council on Exercise: "Why You Should Be Lifting Heavy"
- Australian Institute of Fitness: "Could I Be Lifting Too Heavy?"
- The Mayo Clinic: "Aerobic Exercise: How to Warm Up and Cool Down"
- Elsevier: "Effect of Instructions on EMG During the Bench Press in Trained and Untrained Males"
- Mayo Clinic: "Shoulder Pain: When to See a Doctor"
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.