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Muscle problem - left shoulder and arm.

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Hi guys,

As some of you might know, I'm living in South Korea at the moment, which makes doctors visits a bit complicated, and as for physio - I don't even know!

So, I thought I'd ask for some help on here. I'm open to any suggestions.


A few years ago I started to get a very localised pain in my left shoulder. It would come when I sat at my desk, and then persist all day. This went on until I decided it was my desk chair and got a new one. The problem slowly improved, but left my left arm and shoulder not as mobile as they were. I was starting back up yoga at this point, and noticed a lot of tightness through that arm, especially in the child's pose. I got a couple of professional massages over the year or two, and asked them to pay special attention to under my left shoulder blade where the problem seemed to radiate from. All said they couldn't feel anything. One, however, said 'I can't feel any particular tension in you left shoulder, but what the heck are you doing to your right??'. This makes me think the injury (or whatever it is) might be some sort of compensation for my right side and not actually due to something I'm doing to the left. Anyway, then I moved to Korea and stopped yoga and kind of forgot about the problem. The pain had stopped (apart from when I sat in truly awful chairs, and I wasn't doing any exercise that stretched my arms.

Fast forward to now:

I've been doing BW exercises for about a month and a half, and started doing dead hangs. My left arm is REALLY limiting me. I've started stretching it by reaching straight above my head, doing dead hangs, child's pose, and downward facing dog. I'm not feeling any improvement, though. All that has happened is the nearly constant painful burning sensation by my left shoulder blade has returned. I can push the sore spot with my other hand, and it helps a bit, but comes back really quickly. Also, directly after stretching, if I try to do push ups the muscles right down my left are are tight and it hurts/cramp sensation into the palm of my hand and the two smaller fingers.

Is this return of the pain because I'm reversing it, and now I have to go through the process backwards, or am I likely damaging something?

I'm trying to be really detailed, so here's some pictures. The red lines represent pain :)





Has anyone else had this? Any recommended exercises I can do to help whatever it is that's going wrong?

Thanks guys :)

Warrior Princess
Eating Psychology Coach

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Hey Sambalina, just read through your post again! Sorry to hear you're in pain :(

I'm definitely NOT an expert, but my pain sounds almost the same as yours, except I experience the arm symptoms on the right side, and it's my thumb and index finger. It used to be pain, but now they're numb.

Few questions: what kind of chair did you by? What kind of keyboard and mouse do you use? How many hours a day are you at your desk? When you press really hard on the spot in your first picture, does it hurt, but it's a really good hurt? Are you right handed? Is the pain on the outside of your arm, or the inside?

It could be because the right arm is moving a lot, but the left arm sits tense, poised for spurts of work for most of the day. This causes the tightness, and unbalance. I look like my right shoulder has dropped most of the time, but it's usually that the left shoulder is so tightly wound, it pulls me crooked.

So basically, my physio says that sitting is killing me. He recommends that I try to get a workstation where I stand up all day (yeah right) or at least alter the sitting options throughout the day. The problems in my back (and neck) can often come from my tight hip flexors too, which are shortened from so much desk sitting *sigh*.

Here are a couple of the tools I've integrated to help manage this pain, I hope you find these useful.

1) Ergonomic keyboard and mouse.

They're ugly, but the more natural position helps to loosen the strain on the arms.

2) Kneeling chair and swiss ball.

I alternate between these and a normal chair at work, to keep different muscles activating.

3) Tens (transcutaneous electro nerve stimulator) machine.

Oh, how enjoyable this is when they're wound really tight. Position the pads along the muscle, and start the zapping.

4) Obie

This thing, is awesome. If you can't find something similar, use a rolled up towel. The aim is to reverse the sitting posture. Great yoga position. Oooh, and squash balls work awesomely as a spot reliever too. Lie on them, and roll around. Self massage bliss!

5) Stretching.

If your spot is like my spot, it's quite hard to stretch into. The ones you've listed don't quite hit it.

First up, in downward dog, try rolling your shoulders down and out... this should activate the back muscles a bit more. I also found pushing through to plank from downward dog was really helpful. this move actually brings sensation back into my thumb, which is odd, but nice.

The best stretch I think, is one that my physio taught me. I'm going to have to describe it so I hope this makes sense.

- Find a ballet bar or something you can grip on to, at waist height.

- grip with one hand only, palm downwards, then bend at the waist so your body is parallel to the floor and your arm and body are in a straight line.

- lean back with your hips, so you can feel a pull in your shoulder (should hit the right spot, if not lower body and adjust shoulder position until you feel it) keep pulling back but holding on tightly.

- for an additional stretch, turn your hips towards the hand on the bar, and step back slightly with the foot on the same side... to get into the shoulder and down the ribs. Keep pulling and adjusting so you really feel it.

There's another twisting one as well, but I can't remember it! Can ask my physio if you'd like more stretches? Also deep breathing exercises help! Sitting all day starts to restrict your diaphram.

I don't know about damage, or reversing the pain - so probably really good to see an expert to be sure!

I really hope some of these tips help... I know how much this pain sux. Good luck :)

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Wow - thank you so much for all the work you put into that post Tekilla! You're a legend.

I'm going to do some research into both standing desks and sitting on a Swiss Ball. I think I can do a Standing desk at home, and have a swiss ball for work. I'll go and examine the 'sports and fitness' section of my local mega-korean-mart for anything that looks like an 'obie' too. I'm also just in the process of googeling some hip flexor stretches to try and help that area too.

Thank you so, so much Tekilla :)

And another question for the NF peeps: would stretches and exercises using a resistance band help strengthen this area of my shoulder/help balance me up?

Warrior Princess
Eating Psychology Coach

Adventure's Guild Challenge winner: Challenge #24

â•‘ Live the Whole  â•‘ Bucket List â•‘Level up my Lifeâ•‘ 

"Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you're alive is a special occasion."

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Ok here's my 2 cents as a massage therapist. Most cases, the area that is hurting and FEELS like it needs to be stretched is really being overstretched in our day to day activities (driving with arms forward, typing, etc) and those muscles need to be strengthened to feel better. Basically your arms are rolled forward a lot of the time and the back muscles are being overextended and need to be brought back to normal.

I recommend rowing type exercises, rear deltoid work, and perhaps a little triceps isolation work. And something I tell my clients to do is get a little timer for your desk. set it so that every time you turn it off it resets for the time to start again. Set it for anywhere from 15 minutes (ideally) to an hour. Every time it goes off roll your shoulders back and down and really tighten them and hold for a couple seconds. This isn't going to change your posture the way exercise will but it will stop the sedentary freeze that is happening when you sit the same way hour after hour with no break.

And then at the same time, when one area is strengthened the protaginist muscle will need to be stretched to allow the exercised muscle to shorten as needed so start stretching out your pecs and if possible have them massage or even do self massage there.

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That's really practical advice, thanks Bumblebee.

I'll have a look at some strengthening exercises for the areas you mentioned, and I've downloaded a 'teatimer' app for my desktop that will alert me every 15 minutes and I'll do some shoulder rollin'.

Hopefully I can be pain-free soon.

Warrior Princess
Eating Psychology Coach

Adventure's Guild Challenge winner: Challenge #24

â•‘ Live the Whole  â•‘ Bucket List â•‘Level up my Lifeâ•‘ 

"Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you're alive is a special occasion."

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Excellent video, thanks js290. After seeing this I think I can make my dead hangs much more effective and have better form. Haha, and they give me blisters on my fingers :D

Warrior Princess
Eating Psychology Coach

Adventure's Guild Challenge winner: Challenge #24

â•‘ Live the Whole  â•‘ Bucket List â•‘Level up my Lifeâ•‘ 

"Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you're alive is a special occasion."

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