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Right Shoulder Pain From Golf – What Causes it And What You Can Do

Golf is a fun and challenging sport. However, you may sustain injuries along the way, which may hinder your performance. Right shoulder pain from golf is quite common and it can also happen to your left shoulder, depending on what you use for the game. Take note that you should treat this condition right away so it won’t affect your day to day activities.

In this post, we will discuss what causes golf pain on your shoulder, what you can do about it, and how to prevent it in the future.

What is right shoulder pain from golf?

Have you noticed that you’re not swinging like you used to before? If your swing is accompanied by shoulder pain, your rotator cuff may have been injured. Regular games can also take its toll on your shoulder over time.

Take note that even though your shoulder has the widest range of motion of all your joints, it can still sustain injuries.

Imagine your shoulder as a machine. If you push it to the limits or keep it running for long, it will soon experience mechanical problems. That can happen even if you’re only subjecting the machine to minimal stress.

Your tendons and ligaments will experience excessive wear and tear. Such situations manifest through mild pain, which can worsen over time, much so if you continue playing golf.

So when you notice the initial symptoms of shoulder pain, it’s best to have it treated right away. Regardless if you’re a professional golfer or not, shoulder pain must be addressed as soon as possible. Take note that aside from compromising your game, this injury will also make you less efficient in other daily activities.

In this video, Dr. Leesa Galatz of Mount Sinai Health System tells us more about rotator cuff injuries:

YouTube video

Causes of shoulder pain while golfing

Although golfing itself is the main reason for the shoulder injury, there could be many things happening inside. It could be your joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and so on. The most common here is a rotator cuff injury.

This happens when your rotator cuff sustains tears or excessive wear and tear. The rotator cuff is the group of tendons and muscles that wraps your shoulder joints. This is responsible for keeping the upper arm bone intact on the rather shallow joint socket.

When you swing, your rotator cuffs twists and extends. In some cases, this may overextend, which may lead to tears or swelling. In addition, rotator cuff swelling is often called shoulder tendonitis. 

An abrupt and powerful swing can lead to this painful injury. However, it can also develop over time, as your shoulder gets exposed to the stress of playing golf.

Symptoms that your rotator cuff is injured

If you felt a sudden pain after a powerful swing, you have likely injured your rotator cuff. The following are the symptoms of an injured rotator cuff:

*Tenderness on the affected shoulder
*Pain when elevating the arm
*Limited range of motion
*Weakness of the affected shoulder
*Intense pain when sleeping on the side of the affected shoulder
*Swelling (minor or not observable at all)

Take note that some rotator cuff injuries don’t show symptoms until it has gone worse.

Although minor rotator cuff injuries will go away on its own with first aid treatments, it’s best to consult a doctor. The pain from this injury can worsen, especially if you keep on playing.

The doctor will perform a physical examination by testing your shoulder strength and check your range of motion. After that, further tests will be done to check which part of your rotator cuff got injured.

Risk factors to rotator cuff injury

As much as anyone can sustain this injury, the following risk factors contribute to the possibility of injuring your shoulder while playing golf:

*Age – golf players who are over 40 are more likely to sustain shoulder injuries in the golf course.

*Repetitive, powerful swings – if you perform powerful swings in a row, your shoulder will bear the brunt of the excessive force.

*Career – if you work as a carpenter, painter, and other jobs that require heavy lifting or force, your shoulder will be more susceptible to this injury.

*Exercise – lack of exercise or stretching before the game can increase your risk of sustaining rotator cuff injuries.

How to deal with right shoulder pain

If you happen to hurt your shoulder while playing golf, you can perform some first aid methods to ease the pain and swelling. The following are some of the things you can do:

-RICE drill

The RICE or Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation treatment is a common treatment for pains and aches. For your shoulder pain, take the week off from playing golf and put an ice pack on the affected area. This will help reduce or prevent further swelling.

After that, wrap your shoulder with a compression bandage. Avoid squeezing too much that it’s starting to hurt. The compression bandage helps improve circulation into the injured shoulder while preventing overextension.


The best way to recovery is to give your shoulder the time to heal. As much as you might be an avid golfer, it’s best to take a few weeks off until your shoulder is back in good shape. This way, you won’t worsen the injury.

Even the most acclaimed golfers take time off the golf course to nurse an injury. This is better than playing with an aching shoulder where your performance will suffer.

-Physical therapy

Physical therapy is usually done through exercises and stretches. This is done to bring back the range of motion of your shoulder, without subjecting it to intense force.


If the pain is unbearable, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers while you wait for the doctor’s appointment. Take note that you’re not supposed to take painkillers for long as it can cause stomach issues and bleeding.

When to see a doctor

It’s always best to see a doctor when you sustain shoulder problems. You can book an appointment with a chiropractor or an orthopedic doctor to get your shoulder checked. A professional diagnosis is essential, especially if you’re a pro golfer or if the injury is starting to hinder your daily chores.

The doctor will run a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to confirm their initial diagnosis. Other tests might be needed, depending on the extent of the injury. Nevertheless, it’s rare for a golf-related shoulder injury to require surgical treatments.

Aside from getting the right diagnosis, the doctor will also prescribe the right medication to help you with the pain.

Exercises you can do for rotator cuff pain

right shoulder pain from golf

If you sustain right shoulder pain from golf, the doctor will recommend a few exercises to help regain the health of your rotator cuff. Also, it will help make your shoulders more flexible for swinging. The following are some of the exercises you can try once the pain has abated.

*Modified Rows

Loop a resistance band in a pole and hold the other end of the loop around your palms. Get down in one knee, with the affected side in contact with the ground. After that, starting pulling up and down on the resistance band using your affected shoulder.

You don’t have to pull so hard. You can increase the tension little by little until you have regained the strength of your shoulder.

*Doorway Stretch

This is a very simple exercise that you can perform at your door. Spread your arms on each side of the door, making a plank on the doorway.

After that, grip each side of the doorway with flat hands below the shoulder level. Slowly lean forward until you feel a slight stretch on your shoulder. You can do this on several reps while alternating the foot that leans forward.

*Reverse fly

For this exercise, you need a pair of dumbbells, preferably those with the lightest weight. Start by standing on your feet on shoulder-width distance. Next, bend your knees slightly and bend a little forward.

In this position, hold the dumbbells and raise it simultaneously away from your body. Take note that you should only raise the dumbbells at shoulder level. Going beyond that would be counterproductive.


Also called as the lawnmower pull, this exercise looks like you’re starting a lawnmower through a pulling mechanism. For this, you need a resistance band loop. You have to put the other end of the band under your foot, which will serve as the anchor. After that, pull the other end of the band repeatedly.

How to protect your shoulder while playing golf

As much as right shoulder pain from golf can happen to you, there are ways to prevent it. The following are some of the practical tips that keep your shoulders safe on the golf course:

*Good old stretch

Warming up before each game goes a long way. It makes your muscles and tendons more flexible while preventing shock on your rotator cuffs. Perform some jumping hacks, phantom swings, and other stretches that will give your shoulders a head start for the action.

 Although golf isn’t as active as basketball, football, or gymnastics, warm-up is still necessary. That’s regardless if you have been playing regularly or casually. 

*Refine your golf swing

If right shoulder pain from golf keeps on recurring, it might be best to refine your golf swing. Re-assess your technique and ask a golf instructor to check your swing. It always helps to have someone see how you do the swing.

Also, if your shoulder feels painful after a game, it could mean that you need a different technique.

*Always use the hip and trunk

Remember, when you swing, the force should come from the movement of the hip and trunk for the downswing. It shouldn’t come from your arms alone.

Swinging with too much arm pressure will cause overextension of the rotator cuff, thus pain after the game.

If you’re a newbie, practice always helps. Don’t rush your swings, and make sure that you get a good feel of your equipment.

*Make your shoulder stronger

Another good way to prevent rotator cuff injuries is to exercise your shoulder. This way, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments will become more flexible during the game.

You can use the mentioned exercise above or consult a sports trainer for a more comprehensive routine that you can follow. Take note that each golfer will need a set of stretches that will suit the current condition of their shoulders.

*Get the right equipment

It’s not just your physique; it’s also in the club you use. Always get the right length and weight of the golf club that suits your body. You might be surprised by the difference a well-measured club can do on your swings.

This will also help reduce the strain on your shoulder. Aside from that, wear the right golf shoes, so your feet are planted well on the ground.

*Practice, practice, practice

Like how the trite saying goes, practice makes perfect. Check your swing and what can be improved to reduce the strain on your shoulders. Also, by practicing or playing golf for short periods, you’re getting your shoulder used to the activity. This is a good conditioning process, especially if you’re preparing for a tournament.

*Rest if you must

Every athlete needs rest to allow their bodies to recuperate. That’s no different in playing golf. You also have to rest your shoulders so it won’t be abused. Yes, it’s tempting to go back on the golf course right away. However, doing so will only lengthen the recovery period of a potential injury.

Final words

Right shoulder pain from golf games can happen to anyone – even to the most reputable golfers of all time. Still, you can prevent it with the right preparation and enough rest. As much as practice makes you a great golfer, rest is also necessary to ensure that you’re always in good shape for every match. Besides, injuries will impact your performance and technique.

Have you sustained shoulder pain due to golf before? How did you handle it? Share your experience with us in the comment section!