What to Do About Shoulder and Joint Pain

Here's a question from a reader…

What do you recommend for joint pain especially rotator cuff and elbows due to overhead movements and bench presses? This is annoying especially since I am an active guy. Thank you.

First off, drop heavy overhead pressing for good. It's absolutely worthless other than ego lifting.

The overhead press is the most dangerous thing for rotator cuff and A/C joint because over time the cartilage in the joint wears down and it becomes bone on bone.

The overhead press pinches the joint the most, and heavier weight pinches it and wears it away much faster.

As for elbows, I'm guessing the pain is right behind the elbow where the tricep tendon might be? That seems to be the most common place for it anyways.

If the pain in the shoulder is more in the joint or the front of the deltoid then my best guess is it's A/C joint impingement. When this becomes bad enough a shoulder scope is going to be needed. This is outpatient surgery where they go into your shoulder and clean out the joint by grinding away at it a little and giving it more room to move around more freely.

If the pain is more towards the rear of the shoulder then you may be dealing with a labral tear. An X-ray would show an A/C impingement because you'll see where the ends of the bones look frayed and ratty looking. A labrum issue will require an MRI, and this usually requires a regular X-ray first and then the Doc calls for the MRI (basically a nice way to get more $$ from you).

A couple questions I would ask from you are:

#1- Does it bother you in your sleep? and
#2- is it only bad when under weight, or is it bad all the time?

I had A/C impingements in both shoulders and it sort of felt like an arrow was stuck in my shoulder, and the pain radiated from the front straight through my shoulder. sleeping on it was terrible, and every morning I awoke it felt stiff and sore.

You need to back off heavy weight for starters. For chest ditch bench pressing with barbells for awhile, and stick to machines or some light-moderate dumbbells. Forget a low rep range for now, keep your chest pressing in the teens and 20's for reps, and cut out overhead pressing altogether and just do lateral raises and rear delt raises. Cut out front delt raises as well.

For triceps definitely quit doing skullcrushers. I would stick to primarily tricep pressdowns with the rope for higher reps. Think of your sets more like pump-up sets than heavy weight that grinds and tears the joints up.

Don't worry, you will not shrink down or anything. And it's probably not for good, we just want to back off so you can heal and do not need any surgery if at all possible.

Definitely start taking glucosamine for your joints, and something else to consider is GHRP-2 peptide, for it's tissue regenerative and joint healing properties, along with a low dose of Deca Durabolin every week. 100-200mg/wk should work. I'd go 10 wks like that and see if the pain doesn't go away.

Train hard!! -JD

PS – Don’t forget to check out Straight From the Underground, the new underground bodybuilding bible!!

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22 thoughts on “What to Do About Shoulder and Joint Pain”

  1. This is an issue I’ve been dealing with recently, more so with some tendonitis in my knee. Although shoulders and elbows have had soreness due to heavy lifting 5x/week.

    I recently found something much more effective than taking Glucosamine tablets.

    No exact measurements here, but I had seen these ingredients in a “Recovery Oil” product.

    Purified Water ————–> 10-16oz (Heat the water not quite to boiling)
    Epsom Salt —————–> Mix in enough to make the water “Oily”
    Glucosamine with MSM —-> I used 8 1000mg tablets
    Zinc Picolinate ————–> I used 8 50mg capsules

    Let these sit for 15mins to let the glucosamine tablets soften up, than stir all the ingredients, the water will become cloudy.

    Rub a small amount on each joint giving you pain 2x daily. Let soak in and dry before washing the area off.

    This has helped my joints immensely, hopefully it helps others since its a fairly inexpensive treatment.

    Keep lifting Brothers

    (I would take John’s advice about backing off the heavy lifting for awhile!)

    Reply
  2. Great article John.

    I note that you said overhead pressing is bad for the rotator cuff and A/C joint, causing issues over time. Would you recommend front and side lateral raises instead, or would D/B shoulder press be okay?

    I don’t have any shoulder pain right now, but I do overhead press quite often. Would D/B shoulder press be better or just sticking to raises? Just wanting to insure against long-term shoulder damage while still building mass.

    Appreciate the article, and thanks for your time.

    Alex.

    Reply
  3. Do you recommend any pressing movements to build your shoulders? Shoulders are a weak body part for me so any advice on how to build them would be great.

    Reply
    • Yes, shoulder presses are fine but I just don’t see any reason to go extremely heavy. Your delts get a lot of work from chest exercises anyways and almost everyone I know who has trained shoulders really heavy has joint impingement issues when they get older. I’m not saying not to do shoulder presses, I’m just suggesting a lighter load and training more for pump.

      Reply
  4. I’ve been using Penetrex as it was recommended to me by a fitness competitor. I had my doubts but It has worked wonders on my shoulder and I’m benching again after weeks of nagging pain. I don’t work for them and am not being paid to say this. Just feel like it would be a disservice if I didn’t let others suffering know about it. Got it from Amazon.

    Reply
  5. The bench press can cause a lot of shoulder problems as well. I wonder i these people getting problems over head pressing where using a wide grip like a lot of bodybuilders seem to do. shoulder width grip pressing doesnt seem that dangerous.

    Reply
  6. Victor Pride’s Spartan workout is his free chest workout included when you purchase Spartan is what wrecked my shoulder. As innovative as Vince Gironda was, DO NOT do bench presses to the neck or heavy low-rep overhead presses. I’d also caution against using a smith machine because it prevents the natural arc during pressing. Listen to John and get Becoming The Bull and save yourself the hassle of injuries..

    Reply
  7. I’ve dealt with plenty of injuries and strains / sprains / pulls but this shoulderish one is new for me …

    pain in the bottom back quadrant of my armpit!? like where my lat inserts or meets my rear delt area?

    I feel it on the bottom of bench press, andwhen fully extended outward and pressing (DB pullover, closing a window, etc.)

    Reply
      • Yep, that’s the same pain I’ve had in both shoulders for years. It has gotten much better the last year or two, but MRI’s confirmed I had labrum years in both shoulders. I think chest pressing of any kind without keeping your scapula retracted and depressed(pinned together and down, not shrugged up) is what contributed most to it. Since I’ve started keeping my shoulder blades down and back during pressing, the pain has really gotten much better to where I haven’t had to stop mid-workout in a long time. Also I can bench about 390 now. ;)

        Reply
  8. I’m glad this was brought up.

    I have the dreaded subacromial impingement….is the worst overnight when sleeping. Horrible anterior shoulder pain.

    I’m cutting right now, so am a bit worried about muscle loss if I lighten the loads, but am to the point that it’s probably the right thing to do.

    Do you find that you have any difference in muscle loss when on a cut by using lighter, “pump” type weight?

    I’m on on TRT and ostarine only right now. If i was on a legit cycle I wouldn’t be as concerned about losing muscle with higher reps…

    Reply
    • nope, TRT is enough to hold most of what you have and there is a practice called “adding weight in your mind” where basically you do such strict form and hard contractions that you make a lighter weight feel harder. If you’ve already built your base I have found that you can hold it pretty good

      Reply
    • just my opinion here, but I stay away from power cleans and upright rows, power cleans are too explosive and jerky motion for me and place the front delt under a lot of stress and vulnerability, and upright rows pinch the A/C joints in my delts and never felt right to me

      Reply
      • thanks
        I wish you could talk more in your blog about how much muscle mass a natural can gain without drugs/prohormones or anything, like is it possible to become big as Steve Reeves, John Grimek etc naturally.? who are your favourite old school natural bodybuilders btw?

        Reply
  9. Hi John,

    Thank you for the article. I have started to follow your advice since April and I’m feeling better.

    But it seems kinda like I reached a “stall-point”. it is a couple of weeks that is not getting any real better from this point on. Do you have any tips? Did it ever happen to you? I already do yoga/stretching for Peck and shoulders

    My pain is located in the front of the shoulder, and the cause of it I’m sure is the too much heavy bench pressing on low reps (Body of a Spartan). 5×5 + singles 2-3 times a week lol

    Also I had muscle imbalances between my chest and my upper back (low-mid traps).

    It seems kinda it does n’t want to fully heal..

    Also I have similar pain in my pelvic (psoas/adductors), again, probably from heavy squatting 2-3 days a week… same thing

    Reply
    • What you want to do is go very light on shoulder pressing and stop about 8″ short of lockout, that way the joint doesn’t grind on itself. Or you may benefit from avopiding shoulder pressing altogether for awhile and just stick to lateral raises. On your chest pressing I would stick to machines or pushups. This is what I had to do for about 3-4 months while working through shoulder impingements, which sounds like what you’re dealing with. Heavy shoulder pressing will eventually wreak havoc on your a/c joints, once it’s bad enough you’ll need a shoulder scope where they grind out part of the joint allowing the deltoid to move more freely. Look into taking a joint supplement and also fish oil, back off the heavy shit for now, and work around the injury with other movements. I’ve been there and I healed myself

      Reply

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