1415174 tn?1453243103

Why does my shoulder keep getting tight or locked up after weight lifting?

I have been weight lifting with a trainer for 2 years. I go 2 days on my own and 2 days with the trainer. I do have some pre-existing conditions with my shoulders. The right shoulder was frozen at one point but it has been fine (normal) for about 5 years except for some crackling noises. Also, I have done repetitive work and played competitive tennis and also violin for years. so those things may contribute to my shoulder problems. I have two ball like things. One in each shoulder. They can get sore or cause pain. The physical therapists say they are from repetitive strain.

But having said that I haven't had this problem where the shoulder gets locked up until recently. So, it started when I woke up with a "rye" or stiff neck. I could hardly turn it at all for about 2 weeks then that finally went away. Usually the stiff neck problems go away after 4-7 days for me. Then I have been waking up with a stiff shoulder on the right side and part of the neck. It goes away after moving it around. Then I stopped laying on my side and I had  a good day or two. Then when I lay on my side it gets tighter. It is better now then it was and went away for a couple of days but when I went back to doing a full workout I got stiff in the shoulder again and part of the neck on the same side. It doesn't hurt to do the workout. The neck or side doesn't hurt it is just stiff in the morning and a little more during the day after a workout than normal. Any suggestions? I haven't seen my doctor for this one. He usually says you have an "over zealous trainer." I did give all weight lifting a break for a week and then went back to just working on the muscle imbalance with light weights. Then finally today did a full workout. Then it got stiff again.
thanks for your input.
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Avatar universal
Maybe your doctor is right.  I have a chronic neck problem which has gotten really bad over the last couple of years, and weight lifting doesn't help it, though it does help me because I have so many injuries there's not much left to do.  But when my shoulder hurts, it's not the shoulder, it's pinched nerves from the neck.  Now, in my case, I've known for years I have deterioration in the discs in my neck, probably from an old auto accident.  I was sent to physical therapy for the neck and the arms and shoulders, and it worked for a while, but only when I stopped weight lifting (in my case, my arms hurt so bad I really had no choice).  As soon as I started lifting again, and I only lift light weights, it came back with a vengeance.  At any rate, only an MRI would probably tell you where the problem is, and you'd probably be sent to physical therapy, and they would probably tell you to stop lifting weights and just do the stretches and exercises they give you until you're healthy again.  My main point here is, it might not be your shoulder, it might be coming from the neck, and as long as you don't see a specialist you won't know,  But if not lifting makes it go away, it's pretty clear it's either an injury or your trainer isn't training you correctly or you simply don't have the body necessary to lift or you're lifting a lot which makes you a serious athlete, and they hurt all the time especially as they age.  What someone who specializes in sports medicine can tell you is how much mobility you have in your shoulders and your neck -- if you don't have much, you will hurt.  Hope this at least gives you some ideas of what to investigate.
Helpful - 0
Paxiled, I had an MRI a few years ago and it was totally normal. I have a  lot of  repetitive strain  injuries like tendonitis, and some neck and should problems from repetitive work. I seem to just get locked up after i get to a certain point. I am like you in that weight lifting is about all I can do now. It has helped me a lot. My trainer has saved my life. It is just that this time I seem to not be recovering from getting stiff. I can do the work out but then when I wake up it is tight again. It could be the neck but I didn't feel any injury while I was exercising or anything. My trainer think it is a muscle imbalance. He was right last time. The doctor said the last time it was bursitis and my shoulder blade wasn't operating correctly. i did the PT and then my trainer worked on the muscle imbalance and I was back in business. So i hope that will be it.
It seems to be getting somewhat better. But I hope I don't overdo it.
If your profile is accurate, you're a 55 year old female.  That's about the age when all my problems stopped going away.  It's called getting old.  Not pleasant, but what's happening to you sounds pretty much like what's happening to me.  I'm 64 now, but it started at about your age.  Having been very active all my life, the things I did probably incorrectly without it bothering me came to bite me when a medication ruined my ability to sleep or relax, so that's my story, but yours could be related.  I would recommend doing what I didn't and haven't done, which is switch some of your workout to mobility exercises, such as yoga or pilates or even martial arts without the sparring.  Otherwise, assuming you're not doing something wrong, well, the is what it's come to for you.  Last year I saw a chiropractor who specializes in sports medicine and cross fit training, and his analysis is that my hips and shoulders just don't have the optimal mobility -- not the same as flexibility -- but the exercises and stretches he gave me just caused other problems.  Getting old isn't fun.  Hope you come out the other side.  
Yes I know what you mean. I think it is wear and tear or repetitive strain from years of that kind of work. I do stretch for about a hour and a half a day before and a little after my workouts. I have to or I couldn't do it. I did find out two things. One was that my computer was set way too high so my positive for my arms was off for a while. I hope that helps. The other is that my trainer has been watching me closely and found that I'm using my traps a lot lately. So I am starting to feel better but still a tittle locked up when I lay on my side at night. I probably need a new pillow to as it has been years since i changed it. Maybe regular massages will help also. I fully intend to keep it up as long as I can. I came out of a back injury and a frozen shoulder and so those things with a lot of tennis and violin and repetitive work over the years have paid its tole. Yes I am getting into menopause and just about there. So it maybe part of it too. So we'll see.
thanks for your support and advice. I do hope it gets better not worse with age. I see a lot of older me at the gym and they are doing more than me.
p.s. I would like to take up Tai Chi so yes that would be fun and may help.
Avatar universal
Hi, I'm no doctor but I think you developed knots in your shoulder trigger points, probably in the neck as well, since they're working very closely.

This may happen for many reasons: small injury that went unnoticed, muscle imbalance, lifting too heavy when you're not yet ready.  It results in some muscle (normally inner supporting muscle) going weaker and the other muscle overcompensating, so normally MRI won't show much. In some serious cases it can be due to joint problem, but from what you're describing doesn't sound so.

If this has been now going on for a while you should benefit from two things:
1. A few upper back, shoulder and neck massage or accupuncture or both.
2. Stop your usual upper lifting routine immediately. Ideally have a physio consultation so they can have a look on which muscle is week and advice you on what exercises to do to "switch" the "lazy" muscles back on. There are some really amazing exercises with resistance bands and self massage with a tennis ball. Have a look on YouTube.

I had the same thing so talking just from experience and what I read ;)

Also, don't wanna blame and shame but I can't get my head around why your trainer didn't advice you to do so. That should have been the first thing they told you after you mentioned stiffness and pain.;)

Helpful - 0
Hi apologies shame on me for not reading everything fully before writing the answer. I see your trainer is doing a good job. But I think you should still ask them about resistance bands. :) it really works a miracle.

The app won't let me edit it. So sorry about that.

Thanks. Yes my trainer has me working on the muscle imbalance. It has gotten a lot better I was just worried because it hangs on. I was thinking of changing my pillow too. I have a very flat pillow I haven't changed in years. I just got a memory foam pillow today that supports the neck better. I do have a lot of repetitive strain from working in the past. I have also gone to a physical therapist and the other side had similar problems so my trainer suggested recently to try those exercises to see if it would help since I have these problems. I am working on the small muscles of the back usling mall weights such as doing external rotations and flys with 3 then now 5 lb weights . Before it corrected the problem. I am able to do lat pull downs with heavier weights and 1 arm rows . i am not locking up as much right now and keeping up the smaller muscle workout. But I think I will try the workout the PT showed me even though it is tedious and see if it works on the right side too. It is to strenghten the small muscles around the shoulder blade and so forth. If it doesn' t work I'll go in and see if they can diagnose which muscles it is coming from. I do have resistance bands. I usually used them for stretching a whole lot before working out. So we'll see.I appreciate your help. I think you understand what is going on here. Do you have any you tube videos that you suggest? Or shall I just google the problem and see if I find stiff shoulder and neck and will find that?
p.s. I have had a couple of massages and it helped my left side which had a knot but not the side that is getting stiff which also has a knot.

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Arlington, VA
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