Why Do I Have Shoulder Pain While Golfing?

Q: I love playing golf, but am now having shoulder pain when I swing the club. Any idea why?

A: Swinging a club with a sore shoulder is no fun. Shoulder injuries – along with low back, wrist, and elbow – are the most common injuries for golf players. 

The first step is to determine what’s causing the pain. Two options could be muscle overuse or inflammation of the rotator cuff caused by poor swing mechanics. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that surround the shoulder joint.

In either case, you’ll need to decrease your playing time and let your shoulder rest. In addition, ice the area and take a Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, such as Advil. If those home remedies don’t help, you’ll need to see a physician to identify exactly what’s causing the pain. A doctor can do an X-ray or order an MRI to see what is causing the pain.

Once the source is identified, physical therapy and injections may help alleviate the pain. Surgery is also an option if other treatments don’t provide relief.

The best way to prevent shoulder injury is proper technique during your swing. A physical therapist can look at your swing to determine if you’re engaging the proper muscles and joints. It’s also important to warm up properly before playing golf. Two stretches to try include:

Side stretches where you lift your arms above your head and gently stretch in one direction before going the other way.

  • Stretch your rotator cuff by holding the golf club at its center point with your arm extended. Then turn the club to the right and then to the left. Repeat and then change to the other hand.

Those two basic warm-ups are a good place to start. Your local golf professional or physician may have other suggestions. By properly treating your injury and warming up before the first hole, you’ll hopefully have plenty of rounds of golf in your future.

By Dr. Eric Erickson, fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon with ThedaCare Orthopedic Care in Appleton.