Shoulder pain from pull ups is a common problem that can be remedied with rest, icing, non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory medications and learning a different technique when engaging in pull up exercises. Correct form for doing pull ups can help to avoid shoulder injuries that lead to pain and poor function.
The most common injury from pull ups is shoulder impingement. Rotator cuff tears can also occur, which can lead to pain and poor mobility in the shoulder joint. Strengthening the muscles, tendons and ligaments can help to avoid shoulder discomfort during pull ups and helps to reduce the risk of further injury to the structures in the joint. The use of assisted pull up machines and resistance bands can help to prevent injury to the shoulder.
How to Quickly Fix Shoulder Pain from Pull-Ups
Reduce Volume and Frequency Cut back on the number of pull-ups
If you take a realistic view of how many pull ups you should do, you can avoid overuse injuries and continue your workout routine without having to halt your exercise progress to heal a shoulder injury.
Improve Form and Technique
The right technique can help to reduce stress on shoulder and back muscles during pull ups. Keep your chest up the whole time you are performing the pull up action. Pinch your shoulder blades together as you do your pull up. Keep your shoulders back. Know your limits and don’t overstrain your muscles. You should always pull your elbows straight down on your sides and keep your core engaged for best results. Control the lowering action as you come down.
Strengthen Your Back
Improving the strength of your back muscles can help to reduce the strain on shoulder structures and prevent injury. In one strengthening exercise, you lie on your mat on the floor and extend your arms above your head. Activate your core muscles and lift your head, arms and legs to create 45-degree angles. Pull your arms and legs up until they are perpendicular to the floor. Hold for 5 seconds. Then, return your arms and legs to the 45-degree angle. Repeat to do 3 sets of 5 repetitions. Another exercise uses dumbbell weights. You bend at the waist to a 45-degree angle and bend your elbows while holding the weights, moving them to the top position and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Then, lower the weights. Repeat 10 times.
Stretch and Mobilize Shoulders
Simple stretches can help to strengthen your shoulders and reduce the risk of injury. Stand facing a wall. Extend your right arm out and place your hand at shoulder level on the wall. Use your fingers to “walk” your hand up the wall, moving your feet closer to the wall as you move higher. Then, finger-walk your arm down to shoulder level. Repeat 4 times. Then, switch to the other arm. Another exercise has you stand with your feet hip width apart. Place your left hand on your right shoulder and cup your left elbow in your right hand. Roll shoulders down and back while pulling your left elbow across your chest. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Release, and do the stretch on the other arm.
Use Assisted Pull-ups Using resistance bands or an assisted pull-up machine
Use a long rubber resistance band that is substantial enough to support your weight. Loop the belt over the top of the pull up bar and tuck it through the loop to form a knot. Tighten up the top of the band. You can then stand on the band to allow it to help lift you up as you do pull ups. You can also loop the band around your knee to give you the extra lift. Working out on a pull up machine can also help you to increase your repetitions without causing shoulder discomfort.
Identifying Shoulder Pain
Symptoms of shoulder pain from pull ups
The primary symptom of shoulder strain from pull ups involves pain. Weakness may occur in the shoulder. You may also feel like your shoulder is freezing up and losing normal range of motion. Some people experience numbness or tingling in the arms from nerve impingement.
Diagnosis and treatment options for shoulder pain from pull ups
If you experience ongoing pain when doing pull ups, you should seek medical advice. Your doctor will order an x-ray, MRI or CT scan to pinpoint the problem. Treatment options for shoulder pain range from the conservative, such as cold therapy and medications, to more invasive treatments, such as surgery. Injections of steroid drugs and physical therapy may also be recommended.
Strengthening Your Shoulder Muscles
Exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles
Bent-over rows and seated rows are good exercises to do to strengthen rotator cuff muscles.
Targeting the stabilizing muscles surrounding the shoulder joints
Push-ups and doing rotations with dumbbells can help to strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, chest and upper back.
Isometric exercises for increasing strength in the shoulder complex muscles
Isometric exercises use limited movement and muscle resistance to strengthen shoulder structures. One such exercise has you stand near a wall turning your left side to the wall. Bend your left elbow at a 90-degree angle and place your forearm on the wall. Press your forearm as if pushing yourself away from the wall. Repeat 5 times on each side.
Increasing Range of Motion and Mobility in the Shoulder Joints
Stretching the soft tissues around the shoulder joints
Gentle stretching helps to increase blood flow to the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the shoulders and upper back. Stretches can also help to increase flexibility and range of motion in the shoulder joint.
Foam rolling for increased mobility in the upper body
To improve strength and mobility in the upper back, lie on a mat with a foam roller under your shoulders. Cross your arms over your chest and lift your lower body into a bridge position. Slowly roll the roller up and down, from your middle back to your lower neck area. Continue for 30 seconds.
Incorporating dynamic movements to increase range of motion and flexibility in the shoulders
Doing arm circles help to strengthen muscles of the shoulder and improve range of motion. Pendulum exercise has you bend forward at the waist and gently swing the arm forward, backward and in a circle, as if it were a pendulum. You can also attach an exercise band to a stationary object and work your shoulders to improve strength and flexibility.
Improving Posture to Reduce Stress on The Shoulder Complex
Stand in place and imagine a line that goes through the center of your body and comes out the top of your head. Stretch the line at the top of your head to feel the stretch along your spine and neck. This will help to improve spinal alignment and posture. Another exercise has you sit in a chair with hands on your thighs, shoulders down and chin at a level position. Slowly, pull your shoulders back, squeezing the shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of 5, and then, release. Repeat 4 times.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it normal to have shoulder pain after pull ups
If you experience pain while doing pull ups, you should carefully review your form and technique to ensure you are putting excessive strain on structures within the shoulder joint and that you have done sufficient strengthening of the upper back and shoulder muscles to avoid injury.
Why does my shoulder hurt when I pull-up
If you are experiencing pain during pull ups, you may need additional strengthening of the shoulders and upper back or may need corrections in your technique.
How long does a pull shoulder take to heal
A shoulder injury can take several weeks to heal completely. Tears of the rotator cuff can require several months to completely heal.
How do you fix shoulder pain after push ups
Rest, ice packs and managing pain with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen are the recommended treatment for shoulder pain from pull ups.
Do pull-ups affect shoulders
Pull up exercises can affect shoulder muscles, tendons and ligaments if there is an underlying weakness in these structures. Increasing the strength of these components can help to reduce shoulder pain.
Should I stretch a pulled shoulder
Gentle stretches can help to relieve shoulder tightness and pain caused by overuse.
Should I ignore shoulder pain
Pain is generally a sign that something is wrong. Ignoring pain is not recommended. A better strategy is to stop the activity that is causing the pain, so you can allow damaged tissues to heal.
How do you relieve a pulled shoulder muscle
Icing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to relieve pain from a pulled shoulder muscle.
Do pull ups hurt rotator cuff
Yes, pull ups can cause a rotator cuff injury or shoulder impingement. Incorrect technique during pull ups can lead to rotator cuff injuries. It’s important to learn the right way to do pull ups to avoid causing a shoulder injury.
What should hurt after pull-ups
You may experience some pain in the hands from incorrect form. Minor discomfort in the shoulder can be from micro-tears in the muscles. If you experience severe pain or pain that does not respond to at-home measures, see your doctor.
What should be sore after pull-ups
You may experience some pain in the hands or elbow when doing pull ups. If you experience shoulder pain, focus on other strengthening exercises until you are in stronger condition for pull ups.
Can pull-ups cause muscle strain
Incorrect form and overuse when doing pull ups can lead to muscle strain. Double check your form to make sure you are in the proper positioning for effective pull up exercise.
Why does my arm hurt after pull-ups
Arm pain after pull ups could mean you are doing too many repetitions for your current level of progress. You should check your hand, elbow and shoulder blade form to see if you are in proper position. You can also increase your shoulder and back strengthening exercises to ensure you are toned sufficiently.
What are 2 warning signs of a rotator cuff tear
If you experience pain when lifting your arms above your head, it could be a warning sign of a rotator cuff tear. Similarly, if you attempt to lift something that is held away from your body, and you experience pain, it could be because of a rotator cuff injury.
Can I still workout with shoulder pain
Continuing to work out when you have an injury could worsen the problem. Rest is often the best remedy for overuse of the body, and at-home care with icing and non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory pain relievers can help shoulder tissues to heal properly.
Will my shoulder pain go away
With a bit of home care and rest, your shoulder pain will go away. You should learn the right technique for doing pull ups to avoid injury to your shoulder joint.
How long does shoulder pain last
Shoulder pain can last for a few days or for a few weeks. How long you experience discomfort will generally depend on the underlying injury to shoulder tissues that has occurred.
Should you rest or exercise shoulder pain
Rest and icing of the joint is the recommended treatment for should pain from pull ups. After a period of rest, you can then begin to do stretches and strengthening exercises to provide better support in the shoulder joint for strenuous actions such as pull ups.
How to fix shoulder pain from pull ups exercises
Push-ups, extensions with exercise bands, rotations with dumbbells and doing arm circles can all help to strengthen shoulders and reduce discomfort from pull ups.
How to fix shoulder impingement
Rest, icing, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy are used to treat shoulder impingement.
Can I do pull-ups with rotator cuff injury
Poor technique can worsen a rotator cuff injury, so it’s better to avoid pull ups while your shoulder is healing. Instead, do bent-over rows or seated rows. Until your injury has healed, you should focus on exercises that work the same muscles, but do not cause strain from repetition that could re-injure the shoulder.
Can I do pull ups with shoulder impingement
Health experts recommend allowing a period of rest if you are having pain when doing pull ups until the discomfort improves. Then, carefully following advice about shoulder blade and elbow placement during pull ups can help to avoid further injury.