Top 6 Reasons for Shoulder Pain while Golfing

Top 6 Reasons for Shoulder Pain while Golfing

Shoulder pain while golfing can be from a variety of conditions, but they all can become painful for the same reasons.

• Poor swing mechanics
• Poor lower body/core function
• Poor shoulder blade stabilization
• Poor shoulder external rotation

If you have read some of the other articles I have written on my page, you’ll notice a certain format.

I am going to break that this time because many of the conditions that can cause shoulder pain while golfing are from the same root reasons.

Here are the top 6 shoulder injuries golfers go down with:

• Rotator Cuff Tear
• Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
• Shoulder Impingement
• Glenoid Labral Tear
• Osteoarthritis
• Shoulder Instability

We will go into each of them a bit more, but first, let’s talk about what makes them all similar which are the reasons they develop in the first place.

What is the most common cause of shoulder pain while golfing?

The shoulders need to go through a lot of external rotation in a complete golf swing, and in order to do so they need to be aligned properly.

Improper alignment of the shoulder and shoulder blade will lead to many shoulder pain diagnoses.

Here is a great video by a TPI trainer that I respect in the SoCal area:

What did we just learn?

Increasing external rotation and proper shoulder blade endurance will allow the shoulders to move freely though a golf swing.

Are there some common golf swing faults that will increase the chances of a shoulder injury?


Many lower body swing faults will lead to upper body compensation.

What are some swing faults we should look for?

• Early extending
• S-posture
• Loss of posture
• Reverse spine angle
• Flat shoulder plane
• Over-the-top
• Sway
• Slide
• Hanging back
• Chicken winging

Gosh, that seems like almost everything doesn’t it?!

Like I said…lack of ability to use the lower body leads to upper body swing faults, which leads to shoulder conditions…true story (“How I Met Your Mother” reference).

Don’t know what some of these swing faults are?

Here are some great videos of me and from my Golf YouTube channel:




Chicken Wing

Reverse Spine Angle

Loss of Posture

Hanging Back

Early Extension

What are good ways to increase shoulder external rotation to limit shoulder pain when golfing?

Wow, that was a lot of videos, but back onto the local reason for shoulder pain in golfers, which is lack of shoulder blade strength and loss of external rotation.

Shoulder blade strength is the ability of the shoulder blade (or scapula) to keep its proper position and move well when needed.

Wondering what the right position is?

It depends on where you are in the swing, so it’s a complicated answer, but I can tell you what the wrong position is.

Image someone sitting with poor posture.

Live in So Cal?

Come see me!

This is the wrong position, and it will result in a shoulder injury.

Here’s a great routine for the shoulder that is very simple to remember and to do before you play. This one is not only targeting shoulder blade strength, but it also assists in rotation cuff strengthening too.

Another one I like to do during the week to increase shoulder external rotation is:

Granted, this one is in a gym setting, but it should not be done before playing anyway. Make sure you do not blow through any shoulder pinch points. Consult your doc before trying this one.

Now, I should go into some hip mobilization techniques since I did say that many shoulder issues come from the lower body not doing its job while golfing.

The hips are at the top of the suspect list.

Increased hip motion can be at attained through putting the work in during the week. It won’t happen over night. It could take months.

Here is one series I start my golfers off with:


shoulder pain while golfing

What is a Rotator Cuff Tear?

The rotator cuff is the group of four muscles that hold the shoulder ball and socket together.

These muscles are:

• Supraspinatus
• Infraspinatus
• Teres Minor
• Subscapularis

The most commonly torn muscle is the supraspinatus, but any of them can be torn both with and without trauma.

Yes, you read that correctly.

You don’t have to fall to have a rotator cuff tear. Keep swinging like a weekend warrior and you could have one develop over the years.

Tears happen in all grades and directions. Check out the infographic above. You should get tons of information from that.

Share it with your friends. It’s a great learning tool.

What treatments are available for a Rotator Cuff Tear?

If the tear is a large one, then it’s surgery. I have a very large article on rotator cuff tears that you should read if you have one.

This article is in regards to baseball, but scroll down to the part about rehab and surgery. It’s all in there.



What is Rotator Cuff Tendonitis?

The same information you just read on rotator cuff tears can all be applied here. Tendonitis is really just a smaller, lesser tear.

The tendon is what attaches the muscle to the bone, and in this case, the tendon has become irritated.

Why is it irritated?

It could be overused, smashed or partially torn.

Tendonitis will lead to a larger tear. It is just a matter of time.

What treatments are available for Rotator Cuff Tendonitis?

Oftentimes as the tendon injury heals, there is scar tissue formation that hardens the area of injury. These treatments can help model that scar tissue into healthier tissue over time, which decreases chance of reinjury.

• Active Release Technique
• Deep tissue massage
• Anti-inflammatory injections
• Prolotherapy
• Chiropractic adjustments or mobilizations
• PRICE therapy

Rehab and therapy exercises are still needed. Shoulder rehab can be extremely confusing, but it’s easily done with proper guidance. Rather than recommend a blanket exercise, I’d suggest going to our online shoulder rehab course.

Everything is formatted for success. Check the “Courses” link on this page.


What is Shoulder Impingement?

Shoulder impingement is when something is being crushed under two bony structures in the shoulder.

The two bony structures involved are the humeral head and the acromion process of the scapula.

Between these two structures are tendons and a bursa. If they become crushed, they can create a pinching pain with shoulder elevation…hence the name “impingement.”

The funny thing is that shoulder impingement leads to rotator cuff tendonitis, which leads to a rotator cuff tear.

Shoulder Pain while Golfing

Why is that funny to me?

Because we are looking at virtually the same mechanism of injury, but it’s just in different stages. Why confuse patients? Just call it stages of each other.

Regardless, the take home message is that all three come from the same situation we addressed in the beginning of this article.

What treatments are available for Shoulder Impingement?

Just like rotator cuff tendonitis, impingement will respond to the same types of treatments and rehab.

• Active Release Technique
• Deep tissue massage
• Anti-inflammatory injections
• Prolotherapy
• Chiropractic adjustments or mobilizations
• PRICE therapy


What is a Glenoid Labral Tear?

You don’t want this one. Actually, I don’t know what I would rather have…a cuff tear or a labral tear?

Both have very frustrating recovery processes.

The labrum is a cartilage “O-ring” that the ball of the shoulder joint sits on. It creates stabilization of the shoulder (roughly 70%), and when damaged, it does not regenerate as well as bone, muscle or tendon.

The labrum can be frayed or torn to different degrees. A Grade I tear is a fraying, and it can be rehabbed to some degree. Grade II (and higher) labral tears will normally end in surgery to regain full golf function.

What treatments are available for a Glenoid Labral Tear?

Normally with labrums, I like to rehab and strengthen the heck out of them. Not to say treatments don’t help, but they don’t make the shoulder more stable.

Shoulder Pain while Golfing

For pain management, my choices are:

• Active Release Technique
• Deep tissue massage
• Anti-inflammatory injections
• Prolotherapy
• Chiropractic adjustments or mobilizations
• PRICE therapy

For rehab, here are some educational videos. We do have an online course coming as well if it’s not currently live by the time you read this.

Here’s another series of exercises. These are very entry-level. A program that is more specific can be put together if you have an evaluation in person.

Note: In this video, her back is rounded. I would have suggested a flatter back. Overall, a good demo though Dr. Jo!


What is Osteoarthritis of the Shoulder?

Osteoarthritis is basically “old age” arthritis. There are many types of arthritis. This is important to know because the inflammatory types of arthritis actually require medication to decrease their progression.

In this type of arthritis, medication is normally recommended for pain management, but it is not mandatory.

Osteoarthritis doesn’t always occur in the shoulder because it is not a weight-bearing joint, but it can develop if you have had past trauma.

• Do you ever dislocate it?
• Ever fall on it?
• Break your collarbone?

These are all situations where the joint mechanics change and an abnormal load is placed on parts of the joint leading to abnormal bone growth and thinning of cartilages.

What treatments are available for Osteoarthritis?

Let’s be clear: once you have arthritis, you will always have it.

We are not changing the arthritis, but we can improve how the joint moves.

If you want to keep playing golf, you will need use one of these techniques, in addition to rehab.

I love all of these pain relief methods for arthritis.
• Active Release Technique
• Deep tissue massage
• Anti-inflammatory injections
• Prolotherapy
• Chiropractic adjustments or mobilizations
• PRICE therapy


What is Shoulder Instability?

Shoulder instability is where the shoulder is “looser” than it should be.

Sounds like a good thing, right?


Think of a loose car wheel… too loose is bad right?

You can be too “loose” or too “tight” in any joint. More flexibility is not always the answer.

In conditions of “looseness”, we need to strengthen, tighten, and rehab the muscles and tendons as well re-establishing joint control to make sure the “looseness” is the not the death of the joint.

Shoulder pain while golfing

“Extra loose” shoulders will lead to rotator cuff tears, labral tear and impingement.

Just like MacGyver, if something’s too loose, you need to make it tighter and vice versa.

What treatments are available for Shoulder Instability?

Rewind this article and you will find many examples of exercises for adding strength to the shoulder complex (the glenohumeral joint and the scapulothoracic joint).

Note: with shoulder instability, a doctor should really evaluate you because some types of instability are surgical cases while others respond really well to rehab.

As a general rule, if there was trauma involved and you’re a young person, then you’re most likely going to be a surgical case.

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