Hi Hayley!

I'm now a year out of Grad School, and I've beaten 95% of the bad habits I picked up while there. Last July I got back into the gym, and it was tough going, but while I haven't lost all the extra weight I feel so much better. Except I overworked myself when I started back, and promptly gave myself bursitis in my left shoulder. I'm an ex-dancer, so I have persistent ankle, hip and neck issues, but those are manageable (reverse crunches only to save my neck, and either fast or deep squats for my hip for example). But this was nightmarishly painful - I could basically do no arm exercises for nearly two months. It's much better now, but I'm so worried about injuring my shoulder again that I'm scared I'm being over cautious when I work out. Any advice for managing a possible forever weak shoulder would be super helpful - so many people have just said physio + work through the pain, which is less than helpful!

Thank you so much!!


I agree with those who tell you to do physio, but working through the pain is a bad idea. The thing with pain is that a little bit of pain is ok, but it needs to be good pain, the kind of pain that keeps you coming back for more. Any upper body or arm exercise that you do should be through your pain-free range of motion.

Why shouldn't you push through the pain? Because if you keep causing pain, you are going to constantly be inflamed and your bursitis will never go away. Your physiotherapist (if you don't already have one you need to find one) will most likely inflict pain on your body but that kind of pain is ok and supervised. Active release, acupuncture, intramuscular stimulation, and massage can all be painful and can possibly aggravate your injury slightly, which can cause some discomfort, but any rehabilitation exercise they give after treatment should be pain free. If you're finding prescribed movements painful then you are either not doing them correctly or you are not strong enough yet to be doing the prescribed movement.

Until your shoulder is symptom free only do what feels good, taking small steps to improve your strength. But the good news is there are lots of other things you can be doing to stay fit and healthy!! Cardio shouldn't be a problem as there are many options available for you there. Walking, jogging, hiking, cycling and spinning are all things you should be able to do without causing pain on your body.

You can also try following an anti-inflammatory diet. There are a lot of foods that can cause inflammation in our bodies (alcohol being one of them) so cutting back on these types of foods can be very beneficial. Try adding anti-inflammatory foods into your diet such as turmeric.

Your best bet right now is to dedicate 6 weeks to healing your shoulder and focusing on other areas of fitness and diet because if you continue to cause stress on your already injured bursa you'll be fighting a battle you'll never win. When you are ready to start working your upper body again, maybe look into a few personal training sessions, just to make sure you don't repeat the injury.

Attached - Calvin Harris heading to the gym the other day in Los Angeles.