Glen has right shoulder pain

August 30, 2017


I’ve been noticing some unusual sensations (but not my L) for longer than usual after my gym session last week, and now occasional pain. Its entirely confined to my R shoulder, around the back of the front deltoid, front of the medial deltoid head, and down towards the bicep. My L shoulder seems absolutely fine.

Thinking about it, its been gradually getting worse as I’ve been ramping up the weights over the past few weeks. Seems to be worse with my R arm out to the R side and externally rotated (R hand turned clockwise as if I’m “thumbing a lift”). Investigating this with a few stretches, I noticed a startling asymmetry in my L/R shoulder flexibility with the “chicken wing”
stretch (moving my hand behind my back and trying to move it backwards and up) in that I had dramatically less flexibility on the affected R side compared with my unaffected L side. Practicing this stretch (or resting) over the last few days seems to have helped a little but I’ve no idea how this has occurred – I’m symmetric in most things (though I am R handed).

What do you suggest?


August 30, 2017

Hi Glen

Thanks for the detailed information.

I actually think you’ve got an issue with your neck and not your shoulder, despite it feeling like this is a problem with your shoulder!

I’d do the simple things first – make sure you’re work station is set up well and avoid, prolonged, static postures. Get up and move from your work position every 20 minutes.

Make sure that when you’re training you’ve got good enough joint flexibility not just in your shoulders but also between your shoulder blades and your thoracic spine.

And when training make sure you don’t allow your form to drop as you increase your reps or load.

Try to do some thoracic mobility exercises and not just try to stretch your shoulder – if there is a difference in how you feel after making your thoracic spine move more (and so your neck less) you know you’ve got the cause of your symptoms spot on.

Glen replies to the Guru:

Thanks very much. This is interesting.

One of your colleagues (Hannah) recently noticed that I do not appear to have much thoracic mobility, and I did notice that my upper R traps were a bit sore too (but my L traps were not).

Also, my Pilates instructor has previously said she wasn’t sure that my serratus were activating properly. And I understand the upper traps can try to compensate for lack of upward rotation of the shoulder blade.
I am very careful with my form and try to have a good posture both at work and in general, though I guess there is always improvement to be had there.

I have not gone all out to address thoracic mobility, thinking Pilates twice a week ahould be enough for general stretching etc. But I will definitely try that now.

May I ask, if it is as you say, then why am I experiencing such notably asymmetric stiffness in my R shoulder? Also, my traps/neck sensation/stiffness is entirely gone but my shoulder issues have not?

More info helps the Guru:

It’s always about the cause of symptoms, rather than the symptoms alone.
Having poor serratus or upper traps or rhomboid control doesn’t just happen, it happens because of something – and if that something isn’t identified and changed then trying to just get more control won’t solve the issue.
I think poor control comes from not having the ability to move better, not more. Hence get your thoracic spine moving better not just stretching your shoulder.
I think you’ve probably got remaining symptoms in your right because your right handed/right sided work setup etc and it’s an over use type situation – the same could be said for left as it’s now an underuse issue. You want to be just right – not too much or too little.

Be more Goldilocks!

Guru Responded

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