Shoulder pain during overhead pressing can happen for different reasons. Some people will have pain in their shoulder at the top of the range of motion while others will report pain during the initiation of the movement from the front rack position. Different presentations of pain require different rehab approaches.
Experiencing Shoulder Pain when Overhead Pressing? What should you do to help?
Pain at the top of the overhead press can be due to lack of overhead mobility. If your shoulders lack range of motion and you are trying to press weight overhead into that motion, tissues can become irritated over time because they run out of room to comfortably function. Improving shoulder and upper back (thoracic spine) mobility will be an important part of your rehab process. Here are a few exercise examples we use to get athletes started on opening up their overhead mobility:
Lat Flexion Eccentric
90/90 Shoulder ER Eccentric
Thoracic Spine Rotation with Band
Prone PVC Lift Off
Additional Exercises to Increase Shoulder Strength
Pain during the initiation of the overhead press (the first few inches off of the shoulder) is often a result of a tissue capacity issue. People will often report a recent increase in shoulder activity in their training. A spike in training volume when the tissues aren’t strong enough to tolerate it leads to tendon irritation and pain. Loading the tendons to reduce pain and improve tendon health is a large part of this rehab approach. These are a few exercises we commonly use to start athletes on this process.
Shoulder IR Isometric Holds
Foam Roller Wall Slides
Bottoms Up KB Hold
Don’t Let Shoulder Pain Keep You from Training
We want our athletes to be able to continue overhead pressing in any capacity while rehabbing a painful shoulder. Any effort to maintain strength and conditioning in the upper body is well worth it so you can minimize loss of progress once you’ve rehabbed your shoulder pain away.
While pressing with a barbell can be painful, some athletes may find alternatives like using dumbbells or a barbell for a landmine press pain free. These allow the shoulder to stay in a more neutral position throughout the press which can make all the difference. If that is still not an option, isometric holds in the overhead position are also less aggravating and still helpful for maintaining range of motion and strength for your barbell press.
Everybody’s rehab process is NOT created equally. The exercises and options above are intended to get you started but if they don’t create an immediate change in your shoulder pain (within 3-5 days), we recommend getting an evaluation from your trusted physio or physical therapist. An individualized assessment catered exactly to what your primary issue is will be the quickest and most efficient way to get back to overhead pressing pain free. Our physios at Onward are here to create the perfect mixture of mobility and/or stability exercises to get you performing at your best so you don’t have to guess!