Sore Shoulders From Volleyball

Woman hitting a volleyball

Volleyball requires speed, endurance and the use of many major muscle groups in your legs and upper body. Sore shoulders from volleyball are fairly common as the repetitive action of serving and spiking the ball can irritate your muscles, tendons and nerves. Shoulder pain can be remedied with a combination of home care measures, exercises and learning the proper mechanics of the game.

Common Shoulder Injuries

Rotator cuff and suprascapular injuries are common causes of sore shoulders from volleyball. The rotator cuff is a network of muscles and tendons that hold your shoulder joint together. The suprascapular nerve runs from the base of your neck down past your shoulder into your arm. The repetitive movements of swinging your arm to serve, spike and set the ball can irritate both the nerves and soft tissues around the shoulder, leading to pain, tenderness and limited range of motion. These conditions are called rotator cuff, or shoulder, tendinopathy and suprascapular neuropathy.

Shoulder Strengthening

Shoulder-strengthening exercises can help you prevent and recover from volleyball-related shoulder pain. Depending on the extent of your soreness, you may need to rest for several days up to a few weeks before beginning rehabilitation exercises. Minor soreness that disappears within hours or a day or so probably means you have just overextended yourself physically during practice. This kind of soreness may be helped with some shoulder strengthening. Wall pushups are one of the most simple strengthening exercises you can do without special equipment. Stand facing a wall with your palms touching the surface. Keeping your back and legs straight, bend your elbows and do a pushup against the wall. Shoulder press-ups are another effective shoulder-strengthening exercise. Sit in an armchair with your hands on the arms. Using only your arms, push yourself out of the chair and hold the elevated position for five seconds. Perform these exercises daily.

Training and Technique

Your training schedule and technique plays a role in preventing sore shoulders from volleyball. Playing through the pain or engaging in vigorous workouts for an extended amount of time can make shoulder injuries worse. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons states that athletes should return to volleyball only when they have no pain or swelling and when full range of motion is restored. In other words, you should be able to rotate your shoulder without soreness or painful twinges. Discuss your training schedule with your coach if you are plagued with sore shoulders on a regular basis; you may be overworking the rotator cuff and might need to modify your practice schedule to give your body more time to rest. Participating in workshops to learn or brush up on proper technique can help you use your shoulders more efficiently without pain. You might also minimize shoulder soreness by avoiding collisions with other players; call the ball every time.


Following a healthy diet and adopting beneficial eating patterns can play a role in preventing sore shoulders and other common volleyball injuries. Proper nutrition alone, however, is not going to stop you from developing sore shoulders if you continue to push yourself over your limits. Combined with a sensible training schedule and playing with correct techniques, eating the "right" foods can keep you healthy on and off the court. For most athletes, including volleyball players, this means limiting sugar and fats, and boosting your intake of complex carbohydrates and proteins, especially during the volleyball season. Complex carbs in the form of whole grain pastas, rices and breads offer nutrients that give you the energy needed for endurance. Protein-rich foods like eggs, peanut butter, lean meats and low-fat yogurt and cheeses help build muscle and aid recovery after a vigorous practice or game. Both of these nutrients can help you avoid fatigue, which in term can lead to sloppy technique and an increased risk of injury. Remember to include a colorful array of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet to provide you with essential vitamins and minerals and to drink water before, during and after playing volleyball to remain hydrated. Aim for several small meals each day, including protein-rich snacks before and after volleyball. Larger meals can make you feel sluggish and not on your top game.