3 Causes Of Pain In Shoulder Doing Push-ups & How To Stop Them

Do You Get Pain In Your Shoulder Doing Push-ups?

Watch the video to learn 3 causes of pain in shoulder from doing pushups plus tips that you can use to be able to do push-ups without shoulder pain.

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What Causes Shoulder Pain Doing Push-ups?

The primary cause of shoulder pain when doing push-ups is from impingement of the rotator cuff tendons.

Shoulder impingement syndrome is when the rotator cuff tendons get pinched between the narrow space between the arch that runs over the top of your shoulder and the actual ball of the shoulder itself.

Rotator cuff syndrome

What Causes Shoulder Impingement From Push-ups?

There are three different movements that cause shoulder impingement doing push-ups:

  1. Elbow too high above shoulder level
  2. Too much internal rotation of the arm
  3. Elbows too far behind your body

How Do You Stop Shoulder Pain When Doing Push-ups?

Now that you know the various movement patterns that can make your shoulder hurt when doing push-ups, lets break them down one by one.

I'll show you how that movement applies to doing push-ups and how to fix your push-up technique to keep your shoulder from hurting.

Elbow too high above shoulder level

Most shoulder pain happens when lifting your arm above shoulder level.

When doing a push-up, what that would look like is your hands being in front of your shoulders.

Hands too far forward can cause shoulder pain doing push-ups

Therefore, fixing that problem is relatively easy.

avoid pain in shoulder doing push-ups

You just have to position your shoulders over your wrists when at the top position of the push-up.

Too much internal rotation of the arm

The next problem is the problem of excessive internal rotation.

Internal rotation of the shoulder is the motion you do when reaching behind your back.

The problem with that movement moves a bump of bone on the "ball" of the shoulder joint under an arch that runs over the top of the "socket" of the joint.

This in turn can cause you to pinch your rotator cuff.

Internal rotation when doing a pushup comes from allowing your elbow to flare too far out to the sides.

too much shoulder internal rotation doing push-ups can cause pain in shoulder

If you pinch your elbows in toward your sides, that externally rotates your shoulder and prevents you from pinching tendons.

elbows in when doing pushups to prevent shoulder pain

Additionally, that movement makes the movement  a little more of a triceps exercise.

Therefore, you don't require your shoulders to work quite as hard.

Conversely, when your hands are wide and your elbows flared out to the side, more effort is required from your chest and shoulders.

Elbows too far behind your body

The last tip to relieve shoulder pain when you're doing push-ups has more to do with the shoulder blades.

When you're doing push-ups, if you allow your elbows to go behind the plane of your body, that makes the ball of the shoulder glide forward in the socket.

That in turn can create impingement of the rotator cuff and/or long head of the bicesp.

So how do you stop that problem?

You need to activate one of your shoulder blade muscles called the serratus anterior.

Activating your serratus anterior muscles can help prevent pain in shoulder from push-ups

You can do this by coming up farther into a  push-up  than you normally would (called a "push-up plus")

Push-up plus

Your serratus anterior muscles helps stabilize your shoulder blades against your rib cage in a position that the shoulder blades are slightly in front of the horizontal.

Keep your serratus anterior muscles activated throughout the push-up. By doing this, you will also notice that your chest stops a few inches short of the ground.  This also helps keep your elbows from going too far behind your body.


In conclusion, the 3 tips to help prevent shoulder pain when you're doing push-ups are:

  1. Shoulders over hands
  2. Pinch the elbows
  3. Activate the your shoulder blade muscles

Hopefully these tips help you to be able to do push-ups without shoulder pain.

If you need further help for shoulder pain so that you can get back to working comfortably again, tap the button below to request an appointment with one of our specialists.

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