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Is It Safe To Workout With Shoulder Pain

Is It Safe To Workout With Shoulder Pain?

by Tanner Neuberger, PT, DPT, TDN Level 1Leave a Comment

Working out in pain can generate some fear and anxiety in many people. You have heard that exercise can help with pain, but the thought of putting yourself through more pain, especially if it’s been hanging around for a long time, can be daunting. As physical therapists, we see this fear and anxiety daily, but we have the tools to help guide our patients through this process, and the results show a stark contrast from the beginning to the end of their care.

So how do you do this alone when you have no one to help guide you? First, research consensus shows that working out with shoulder pain is safe and is very effective at reducing shoulder pain in the long term.1,2,3 Second, there are strategies to employ when exercising to help decrease the pain that you are experiencing. Below is a list of strategies to help reduce your shoulder pain and get you on the right path again to exercising as pain-free as possible.

Manage Your Training Load:

  • You can only train effectively if you can recover from the work you are performing. Frequency, intensity, and load all play a part in this equation.

Change Your Form:

  • Especially with dumbbell exercises. Sometimes changing your form slightly can lead to a less painful shoulder while working out.

Use The Stoplight System

  • Utilized to help decide what pain is acceptable and what pain is not.
  • Green: 0-3/10 pain. This is a comfortable work zone.
  • Yellow: 4-5/10. This spot is generally ok, but you should consider ways to reduce it to 3/10 or below.
  • Red: 6-10/10. This is the region to get out of as soon as you can. Something bad won’t always happen in this zone, but the risk is certainly higher than in other zones.
  • Utilize cardio training to decrease overall pain sensitivity and tolerance to exercise.

Is It Safe To Exercise With Shoulder Pain?

The answer is yes, but you should be aware of some factors that can influence your pain, either good or bad. The above tips will help guide you through your exercise program and get you on the right path to decreasing your shoulder pain through exercise. If you find yourself still having questions, or are unsure of what program to follow, schedule a free assessment with your local Athletico today. Free assessments are available in-clinic or virtually through our Telehealth platform.

Request a Free Assessment

*Per federal guidelines, beneficiaries of plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VHA and other federally funded plans are not eligible for free assessments.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Dubé MO, Desmeules F, Lewis J, Roy JS. Rotator cuff-related shoulder pain: does the type of exercise influence the outcomes? Protocol of a randomised controlled trial. BMJ Open. 2020;10(11):e039976. Published 2020 Nov 5. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2020-039976
2. Ludewig PM, Borstad JD. Effects of a home exercise programme on shoulder pain and functional status in construction workers. Occup Environ Med. 2003;60(11):841-849. doi:10.1136/oem.60.11.841
3. Painful Shoulder: Exercise Can Reduce Pain and Improve Mobility and Function. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2020;50(3):142. doi:10.2519/jospt.2020.0501
4. Tan L, Cicuttini FM, Fairley J, et al. Does aerobic exercise effect pain sensitisation in individuals with musculoskeletal pain? A systematic review. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2022;23(1):113. Published 2022 Feb 3. doi:10.1186/s12891-022-05047-9
5. Trøstrup J, Svendsen SW, Dalbøge A, et al. Increased shoulder pain across an exercise session and subsequent shoulder exercise: a prospective cohort study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2022;23(1):726. Published 2022 Jul 29. doi:10.1186/s12891-022-05674-2

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Exercise and FitnessShoulder Painpain and exercisepain managementtraining load

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