Q: I am a 40-year-old woman who likes to exercise regularly. About three months ago, I started to have right shoulder pain after my workouts. I do not recall injuring my shoulder. Then, the pain got worse and started to bother me during the workout. I stopped working out, but the pain is still there and now wakes me from my sleep at night. I have noticed some shoulder stiffness as well. Advil has not helped. I am frustrated as my shoulder hurts and I can't work out. Who should I see to get better?
A: It is very common to develop rotator cuff tendinitis, an overuse injury, from working out. Commonly, your shoulder starts to hurt at the extremes of motion and as a result, you then avoid moving the shoulder to these motion limits.
Scar tissue (adhesions) form, which limits motion further. This becomes a vicious cycle as your shoulder becomes more painful and your motion gradually worsens. This condition, known as a "frozen shoulder," is particularly common in women between the ages of 40 and 55. I recommend you see an orthopedic surgeon to evaluate your shoulder and confirm the diagnosis.
The first line of treatment is physical therapy to regain motion and decrease inflammation. It can take several months and your pain will not go away until your motion is back nearly to normal and the tendinitis resolves. When your condition improves, the therapist will modify your workout program so your exercises help your shoulder rather then aggravate it.