Hi, I'm Dr. Molly with Your Goals Physical Therapy. So many people have pain in their shoulders when they try to do a pushup and for a lot of people that ends up being the end of all pushups forever. Because ultimately people end up in one of two camps, you're either in the camp that if an exercise hurts, “I just don't do it.” Or you're in the camp of “I'm going to push all the way through the pain because pain is just weakness” and I can make it through that. I’m a little bit more in the gray area.
If you're in the camp of, if you do a pushup and it just hurts so you stop, then you're missing out on all the benefits of doing the pushup. Push-ups are amazing exercises for bone strength in our arms, especially for us ladies, as we get over the age of 30, our bone density becomes a problem. So being able to do a push-up correctly helps us improve our upper body bone density. It also helps with shoulder stability and overall strength. I mean, let's face it. A pushup is essentially a moving plank. Planks are amazing for us also. Then if you're in the camp of: I'm just going to push through it. Those are the people that I ended up seeing because they tore their rotator cuff or tore their pec muscle or some other catastrophic event occurred.
I tend to take a little bit of a nuanced stance if you're having shoulder pain, when you're doing a push-up. If your shoulder doesn't really bug you at all through the rest of the day. There's no major things that you notice that you can't do or that are limiting you because of your shoulder. Then every time you go down to do a push-up, you just have pain and/or it doesn't feel right. Or the push- up..Doesn’t feel like a natural thing for you to be doing?
Then let's explore that a little bit. It could just be that you have some strength problems. How would you determine if it's just a strength problem, especially in your own home? Well, not everybody is familiar with what the push-ups are supposed to be. So let's just go over that just in case to make sure we're all talking about the same thing. For a push-up you start with your hands aligned with your chest. You push yourself up from the floor, with everything staying in a line. Then you go down and you come up. Many people are familiar with initial modification, which is being on your knees and everything else is the same. And you just go down and then come back up.
But there are other modifications. So if those two positions are still causing you trouble and you want to see if it's just an overall strength problem, then my suggestion is to try something that's higher. That can be your counter top at home. That could be a gym bench. If you're in a gym that has a Smith Machine that has multiple levels, you can adjust the height of the bar and use that bar. But anything that gets you an elevation and what that would look like is the exact same thing. You're going to make sure that you're still in line with your chest. Everything's set in place and everything is straight. You go down and you come up. But since you're in an elevated position, it's less work for your chest and your shoulder. So if you just have a strength problem, that would be a way to determine it.
Now, what happens if the problem is actually inside your joint? What do you do? Or how do you tell if you actually have something wrong inside your shoulder? Let me give you a couple ways to check your range of motion. When you go up with your arm, you know, outgoing by your side, if you go up your shoulders shouldn't raise up. You shouldn't have to do this. So if you get to about here and everything's coming up with you, there's something going on in your shoulder. The other thing that people tend to have is if you're coming out to the side, again, it should be all separated, but like it's two different things moving, right? I have my shoulder or my arms moving and then my shoulder kind of comes with it a little bit, but they are distinctly different for some people when you notice that you get this. And so as they get to about here, everything comes up with it. That would be a clear indication, there's something going on in your shoulder. Something is not balanced and that needs to be looked at.
That is what I help people do so that you can get back to pushups. You can get back to the other things that are fun in the gym. I help people problem solve why it is that their shoulder is starting to do this. There's always a reason and it's not always catastrophic. It doesn't mean that you have to have surgery. It doesn't mean you're going to have a year's worth of therapy. It just means that there's some muscle imbalance. And so with some stretching and some specific things that you can do at home or in a gym, you can get that shoulder to actually work correctly and get back to doing pushups.
If that's the type of service that you're looking for, or you have other questions about your specific problem with your shoulder, feel free to reach out to me. Also, if you're looking for an additional stretch, just to see if maybe it's just your chest is a little bit tight. If you come back to my site Friday, I'm going to be posting The Do's & Don'ts Of The Chest (pec) Stretch because so many people are doing that stretch wrong. In this video I'm going to show you how to do it correctly in order to get more bang for your buck.
I hope this information helps you. Have a great day.
WE HELP ACTIVE ADULTS OVERCOME THEIR ACHES AND PAINS TO GET THEM BACK TO THEIR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES WITHOUT MEDICATION, INJECTIONS OR SURGERIES.
Dr. Molly McDonald