Can bench press cause shoulder pain?

The bench press focuses on the chest, upper arm and shoulder muscles that attach around the shoulder. After the exercise, these muscles can end up fatigued and taut which results to shoulder pain or discomfort.

The shoulder pain that occurs after bench pressing can also indicate an injury such as a muscle strain. The commonly used treatment involves rest, application of ice and over-the-counter pain medications. If the individual continues to bench press with an injury to the shoulder, it can lead to incorrect shoulder mechanics and even further injury. Always remember that a doctor should be consulted if the pain persists.

Close look on muscle strains

Bench press using a heavy weight or overtraining can result to muscle spasm, tight muscles and muscle strain which leads to shoulder pain. It is important to note that a muscle strain occurs once the muscles such as the chest muscles are torn due to overuse or overexertion.

In most cases of tears, they occur where the muscles attaches to the tendon. The symptoms include shoulder pain, joint stiffness, muscle weakness and swelling. As for a full rupture, the symptoms are quite severe along with muscle deformity.

Shoulder pain

Bench press using a heavy weight or overtraining can result to muscle spasm, tight muscles and muscle strain which leads to shoulder pain.

Poor technique is also a usual underlying cause of muscle strains. It is recommended to start to lift with the wrists slightly wider than the shoulders with the knuckles to the ceiling. It is best to inhale while lowering the bar steadily until the upper arm is parallel to the floor. It is not advisable to lift more weight than what the individual can control during the downward phase. In addition, keep the bar directly above the chest as he/she pushes upwards.


Tendinitis is a condition that involves inflammation and deterioration of the tendons such as the rotator cuff tendons that surround the shoulder joint. As for impingement syndrome, it develops once the rotator cuff tendons are compressed or pinched which results to shoulder pain.

Both conditions can also lead to the development of bursitis. This condition is characterized by inflammation of the bursa sacs that are found around the tendons which provide lubrication. The inflammation often develops with overuse syndrome once the muscles are not allowed time to recover between the workouts.

Other possible causes

Other causes of shoulder pain include entrapment of a nerve, torn cartilage, shoulder subluxation and arthritis. When it comes to subluxation, the shoulder pops out of place momentarily.

An entrapped or compressed nerve such as the radial nerve can cause tingling or numbness around the shoulder and down the arm along with shoulder pain. The indications of a labral tear and arthritis include shoulder pain, grinding, catching with shoulder movement as well as joint stiffness. If there is inability to move the shoulder and a perceivable pop as the shoulder goes in or out of the socket, it indicates a subluxation.

What are the risk factors?

The tight muscles can pull on the tendons and shoulders which lead to excess strain on the tendons which makes them prone to injury. The imbalance in the muscular strength along with tight muscles can result to poor posture such as rounded shoulders which puts the shoulder in a compromised position.

Increasing the resistance rapidly, lack of warm up and neglecting lifts that strengthen the back muscles are the usual training errors that also increase the risk for shoulder pain and other related injuries.

Additional risk factors include the age, shoulder instability and previous injuries to the shoulder. It is vital to include stretching as part of the regular workout program.


When dealing with shoulder pain from bench press, the treatment usually involves rest, application of ice, wearing a compression wrap and over-the-counter pain medications. In cases where the pain is persistent, the doctor might recommend corticosteroid injections, physical therapy and even surgery.

Just remember though that the use of corticosteroid injections for tendinitis might lead to further degeneration of the tendon over time. Physical therapy is comprised of modalities such as ultrasound along with stretches and strengthening exercises to restore normal flexibility, strength and coordination of the shoulder joint.


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