Pop in the Shoulder While Lifting

Pop in the Shoulder While Lifting Weights: Should I Be Concerned?

We see a very results-oriented population here at SSOR.  One of the more common complaints we’ve run into here is people working out at the gym – bench pressing, incline/decline bench pressing, military pressing, etc – and feeling a sudden pop in the shoulder as they push.   Some people feel fine and keep plugging away.  Others have a nagging pain that they can’t kick.  You know what we’re talking about – hurts to reach overhead, put a shirt on, tuck a shirt in, reach in the backseat, maybe even driving itself.  So should you be concerned about that pop in the shoulder?

Shoulder Pain from Lifting Weights

An evaluation by a sports physical therapist can help guide your treatment.   If you have nothing serious, you should get better within a couple of weeks from the right combination of exercises and activity modification.
Rotator Cuff Tear
If you tore your rotator cuff, it will be very difficult and painful to raise your arm, if you can raise it all the way at all.  This won’t get better and may worsen.  Also hurts like the dickens to lay on that side.  You may have pain that radiates down the deltoid with a rotator cuff tear too.   Be Concerned
Labral Tear/SLAP Tear
Your labrum is a circular piece of cartilage, almost like a washer, that deepens the socket in the shoulder.  If it is torn, you may have some popping in the shoulder when you try and rotate it that may be painful.  If you feel your pain is “deep in the shoulder” but you can’t pin point it, you may very well have a labral tear.  Usually, pain  + popping is a bad deal.  You can try conservative therapy, but if you want to be active, you might need surgery to fix it.  You should know quickly though – 3 to 4 visits of PT will tell you if you have a shot.  Be a little concerned
Rotator Cuff Strain
You have pain and/or discomfort when you move your arm, but you can do it.  Pain is usually associated with lifting, reaching overhead, and general “use” of the arm.  Might be tender over that area too.  Contrary to a rotator cuff tear, you should be able to sleep on that side.  You might have some associated pain in front of the shoulder that might be some associated biceps tendinitis.  A rotator cuff strain may seem to get a little better, then you try and work out again and it feels the same.  With a competent physical therapist and a comprehensive treatment plan, you should do just fine.  Not too much concern.
Pectoralis Major/”Pec” Tendon Rupture
No doubt, you’ll know when you do this.  You may even lose control of the bar with this one.   There’s a ton of pain and you may even see a deformity.  If no visible deformity, you’ll surely see some significant bruising.  Best to go see an orthopedic surgeon on this one.  Be concerned
The physical therapists at SSOR are experts in musculoskeletal assessment.  Most of the time, our patients are telling us what happened and we used our exam to confirm it because we listen and we know the “buzz words.”  Give us a call, it would be a privilege to serve you and partner with you in your care.