Shoulder pain but only after exercise

(Greenwood, IN)

Through the interscalene triangle pass the nerves and artery to the arm.

Through the interscalene triangle pass the nerves and artery to the arm.

Shoulder pain but only after exercise means a thorough examination is needed.

It doesn't hurt all of the time. Sometimes I don't feel the pain until the day after doing something strenuous. I can do deep tissue massage on my husband using all me strength and it doesn't bother me until I wake up. Sometimes it hurts immediately after lifting my child over my head. The pain is in the shoulder, moves to underarm and rhomboid, only on the right side.

This started after my husband put a large ladder on my shoulder to see if I could carry it 9 months ago. I can move my arm any way I can possibly which doesn't seem to bother it. The most painful part is on the outside directly applying pressure on the ball.

I would go to a Chiropractor or Dr if I had insurance. I am currently a Medical Massage Therapy student that just started yesterday. Hoping once I can learn on my own to fix the problem but if you can help by giving me an idea since I have ruled out dislocation and rotate cuff due to no mobility problems, just heavy lifting problems, i would really appreciate it.

Hello Misty,
So, he found out you can't carry a heavy ladder; too late alas.

Rhomboid area pain is always a bit of a diagnostic nightmare; it can be a referral from C5; do you have any neck pain?

Or a muscle strain, or from the spine, or rib below the rhomboid.

By underarm, do you mean lower arm? Then I'd definitely be thinking about from your neck or in the interscalene triangle; first rib subuxation or scalene spasm. Arms above head would aggravate as you've found.

But if you mean in the axilla, then it could be the subscapularis; does pulling your bent arm inwards against resistance give you shoulder pain? Press against your left hand with right hand, with elbow bent at your side, up against the rib cage.

If you meant the inner side of the upper arm, that's the T1 dermatome.

In short, there are lots of possibilities. Couldn't one of the tutors at your course help?

I would start some simple, gentle shoulder exercises every day, building up slowly. There are some at our shoulder pages.

I hope this all helps.

Dr B

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Jan 06, 2017
To answer your questions
by: Anonymous

I have always had neck pain. All the pain started in the shoulder when the injury occurred. It later spread to the rhomboid and through the armpit. In the beginning I could punch a heavy bag forward and upper cut but it was painful to hook. Resistance no longer gives me trouble. Just anything heavy in the process of using my shoulder. Earlier today it hurt, I did some stretching it popped and now it feels better. Last night I did deep tissue massage on my husband. I believe it is a strain healing since it is improving. I was hoping it wasn't going to be long term and it interfere with my becoming a massage therapist. Once again thank you for your help.

Hello again Misty,
Then more than likely the shoulder problem has it's source somewhere in your neck; because that would affect the motor nerve to the arm, everything becomes vulnerable to strain and sprain.

Then do some neck and shoulder exercises every day. Gentle, not like you're going to give an upper cut! In fact, that could be the source of your neck pain; boxing is hard on the cervical spine; multiple little whiplashes.

Dr B

Jan 06, 2017
Thank you for your help on shoulder pain.
by: Anonymous

It does stem from the neck as well. Thank you for your help. I will ask a tutor at my school how to tell and learn how to fix this on myself and others.


An x-ray of your neck would be instructive. Do you perhaps have a short leg? Ask hubby to stand behind you with hands on the iliac crests; are they more or less level? Any scoliosis as you bend forward?

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

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