How to Exercise with Shoulder Pain

Fun fact: Did you know the shoulder is the most movable joint in the human body?!  How cool is that?

It is literally a ball and socket joint allowing for a wide range of motion and movement.  Because of this increased mobility, shoulder pain and injuries are extremely common; accounting for nearly 20% of visits to the doctor’s office! 

If you are experiencing or have dealt with this pain, than you know how hard it can make performing otherwise simple tasks like driving, combing your hair and even sleeping. If you are someone who occasionally deals with shoulder pain or suffers with chronic shoulder pain, this blog is for you! 

Today’s blog focuses on chronic shoulder pain so you understand:

  • What’s causing your pain

  • Why You Need to be Exercising

  • 5 Exercises for living PAIN FREE!


Dealing with chronic shoulder pain can be caused by many different factors, many of which you have full control over and can start controlling now to prevent and alleviate the pain!

Medical Causes for Shoulder Pain:

  • Arthritis: inflammation or degeneration of one or more joints

  • Rotator Cuff Tendonitis and Tear: the most common cause of shoulder pain occurs when the tendons of the rotator cuff muscles get trapped under the bony area of the shoulder causing the tendons to become inflamed, damaged, or in the worst case, resulting in a tear. 

  • Bone Spurs: bony projections along the bones edges that form over a long period of time as we age

  • Bursitis: inflammation of the fluid filled sac (bursa) that helps protect the joint and helps it to move smoothly

  • Broken Shoulder Bone: caused by trauma or degeneration

  • Dislocation of the shoulder: caused by trauma or injury

  • Shoulder Separation: caused by trauma or injury

  • Frozen Shoulder: when the muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments of the shoulder become stiff making movement difficult or painful

  • Overuse Injury: damage to bones, muscles, ligaments, or tendons as a result of repetitive use/stress

  • Poor Shoulder Posture/Mechanics: can lead to the shoulder tendons becoming pinched and rubbing against the bony structures of the shoulder

Lifestyle Causes for Shoulder Pain:

  • Computer work/desk jobs: any job requiring extended time hunched over a computer/desk which can lead to poor posture/body mechanics.

  • Prolonged driving: driving posture and the way you sit in the car can contribute to back, neck and shoulder pain.

  • Handheld technology use: spending endless hours hunched over your phone/tablet contributes to poor posture/shoulder pain.

  • Lifting weights with improper form: repetitive weighted shoulder movements with improper form can cause tendon injury/strain. It is always best to work with a coach/personal trainer who can instruct proper form and technique, especially when lifting weights.

Now that we understand what may be causing your shoulder pain, let’s discuss ways to improve shoulder joint health and mobility so you can continue being active and living your best life pain free!


Now that we’ve covered all the bases as to why you may be experiencing shoulder pain, let’s get down to the specific exercises we use at Results Fitness to prevent, manage and ease shoulder pain so you can get back to doing what you enjoy pain free!. Chronic pain is often the direct result of weakened muscles, overcompensating (not using the proper muscles) and poor posture. Strength Training (lifting weights) is the most effective type of exercising to alleviate aches and pains because it strengthens the various muscle groups you depend on and need to perform everyday tasks. If you aren’t training these muscles and using them regularly, they become weak; making life hard! At Results Fitness, strength training is our core focus because it makes life easier, better and pain free!

Top 5 Exercises for Shoulder Pain

  1. Horizontal Rows with a Band or Cables: Horizontal rowing allows the head of the humerus to remain neutral during abduction (moving shoulders away from the middle of the body) and helps strengthen the posterior shoulder girdle (posterior deltoids and rhomboids) without compensating with our upper traps. 

    This overcompensation can often lead to pain, but this simple exercise helps to prepare and protect the shoulder complex for not just strength training but your daily activities causing stress to the shoulder joint. 

  2. Dumbbell Floor Press: Due to the floor reducing shoulder external rotation, this is a great variation of the chest press for anyone experiencing shoulder pain/discomfort.  This exercise targets the chest, triceps, and anterior shoulder muscles. 

    Using dumbbells can improve strength imbalances on each side and allows you the capacity to change the angle of the shoulder and wrist during your lift to help reduce pain while strengthening the shoulder joint. 

  3. External Rotation with a Band or Dumbbell: External rotation targets the infraspinatus muscle, one of the most important muscles of the rotator cuff. The infraspinatus’ main job is to rotate the humerus (long upper arm bone) away from the body. 

    During exercise and life in general, we do a lot of movements that place external load on our shoulder joints: think blow drying your hair, reaching to put on your seatbelt or grabbing something from the back seat.  Strengthening the infraspinatus using external rotation exercises has been proven to improve performance and prevent injury, especially when lifting overhead. 

  4. Front Raise with a Band or Dumbbell:  The front raise specifically targets the anterior deltoid muscle (muscle in the front of our shoulder).  This muscle is responsible for shoulder flexion so you are able to do things like raising your hand up and away from your body. The front raise mimics daily activities such as putting groceries on the counter or objects onto shelves at about shoulder height. 

    This exercise is effective for strengthening your shoulder muscle so you can continue lifting your kids/grandkids, that heavy laundry basket, groceries, and your fury friend safely and pain free. This exercise is also incorporated into most physical therapy routines following a shoulder injury or surgery. 

  5. Lateral Raise with a Dumbbell: The lateral raise specifically targets the lateral deltoid muscle (muscle on the side of your shoulder) which is responsible for shoulder abduction: moving your arms out and away from the sides of your body forming the letter “T”. 

    Specifically targeting these muscles ensures joint stability and prevents injury.  Incorporating lateral raises into your strength training routine guarantees we are hitting all sides of the shoulder allowing for a stronger, healthier joint. 


Now that you’re considering strength training to help reduce and prevent shoulder pain, here are a few do’s and don’ts for getting started:

  • Listen to your body!  If your shoulder becomes sore during any activity, DON’T ignore it.  Trying to push your way through or “tough it out” may only make it worse. If the pain doesn’t subside or worsens once you take a break from the said activity, you may need to consult a doctor. 

  • Watch how you move/sit during work.  Check your posture at work, whether you’re sitting or standing.  If you sit at a desk all day, make sure your workstation is set up to allow for proper joint alignment and posture.  Take breaks every hour to get up, move around and stretch.  If your job requires lifting, be sure to incorporate proper lifting techniques using your legs keeping your back straight.

  • Don’t strain to reach what you need.  Straining and overreaching causes undue stress on the shoulder.  Use a stepstool or move objects to lower drawers/cabinets as needed. 

  • Check your sleeping routine.  If you sleep on your right or left side and experience shoulder pain on that side, flip to the other side or sleep on your back.  Using a pillow to help prop up the shoulder is also helpful in reducing pain. 

  • Increase your shoulder strength.  Work with a certified coach / personal trainer like our team here at Results Fitness to ensure you are exercising the right way with proper form (otherwise, you could cause more pain / get hurt). Having access to experts who can show you exactly what to do and provide modifications so you can exercise pain free is crucial!

  • Rest and recover.  If you do injury your shoulder, take time to rest and ice.  At the same time don’t limit all shoulder movement.  Incorporate gentle stretches to keep your arm moving without overdoing it, in your pain-free range of motion. 

if you are ready to live pain free and anxious to get back to living your life without any setbacks, you are invited to talk to one of our coaches for FREE so you can learn how we will work together and rid your pain once and for all! Click the box below to talk to a coach now!

Share the love:


More from our blog:

Scroll to Top

Fill out the form now and a friendly member of our team will be in touch!