Shoulder Pain From Golf

Young man swinging golf club, rear view

Golf relies largely on your hips, arm, chest and shoulder muscles to successfully navigate your golf ball from the tee onto the green and into the hole. Your shoulders often do the bulk of the work during a golf swing, which can make them especially prone to pain and injury.

Development of Pain

Pain in your shoulder can develop for a variety of reasons, ranging from arthritis to overuse. Arthritis can develop over time in the shoulder with wear and tear, leading to painful inflammation that can affect your range of motion while golfing. Muscle injuries, such as swinging too hard or too far past your comfortable range of motion, can cause shoulder pain as well. Overuse can also affect the shoulder, such as spending too much time on the driving range or simply golfing after not playing for a long period of time.

Joints and Muscles

Shoulder pain originates largely around the acromioclavicular joint, or AC joint, at the top of the shoulder, and to a lesser degree the glenohumeral joint between the shoulder blade and the head of your humerus. Your back swing can affect the cartilage of the AC joint, causing it to deteriorate over time with overuse, leading to anterior shoulder pain. Problems with a weak subscapularis muscle beneath the scapula may also lead to shoulder pain as the weakness can create instability in the subscapularis, which is used throughout your entire swing.


There are a couple different ways to help get your shoulder back to normal. First is the RICE method, which involves resting the shoulder, placing ice on it, and keeping compression on it to help encourage a reduction in inflammation. Since it's your shoulder, the "E" for elevation does not come into play in the injury, although keeping it at an area above your heart, such as in a sitting position verses laying down, may help encourage draining to reduce inflammation. Over-the-counter pain medications like naproxen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to help reduce any pain associated with the golf shoulder injury.


Shoulder pain can also be prevented through using preventive stretching mixed with strength training. For example, lean forward so your body is relaxed at about a 90 degree angle. Let your arms fall limply to the floor. Draw circles with the arm attached to the affected shoulder. Start with small circles and gradually grow larger. For strength training, any type of free weight exercises or weight machines that target the shoulder muscles, especially the subscapularis muscle, will help build support in the shoulder joint, reducing your risks of future shoulder injuries.