Managing Pickleball Shoulder Pain: The Ultimate Guide

Guide to preventing pickleball shoulder injuries

As a pickleball player, you know how fun and addicting the game can be. It’s a great way to stay active, socialize, and challenge yourself mentally and physically. However, you may also be familiar with the dreaded shoulder pain that can sometimes come with playing pickleball.

Shoulder pain is a common injury among pickleball players and can be frustrating. It can limit your ability to play and enjoy the game; if left untreated, it can lead to more severe shoulder strain.

But don’t worry; in this blog post, we’ll discuss the causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment of shoulder pain. We’ll also provide tips for returning to the game safely after experiencing shoulder pain.

By the end of this post, you’ll have a better understanding of how to prevent and manage shoulder pain so that you can continue to enjoy pickleball for years to come. So let’s dive in and learn how to keep your shoulders healthy and pain-free on the pickleball court!

What Causes Pickleball Shoulder Pain?

Pickleball is a fun and low-impact sport, but it can still lead to pain if proper precautions are not taken. Here are some of the most common causes of shoulder pain:

Overuse Injury:

Repetitive motions of swinging the paddle and hitting the ball can lead to overuse injuries in the shoulder. This is particularly true for players who play frequently or for long periods.

Incorrect Technique:

Improper technique while hitting the ball or serving can place unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint and muscles, leading to pain and discomfort. It is essential to learn the correct technique to avoid such problems.

Muscle Imbalances:

Over time, muscles used in pickleball can become imbalanced, leading to shoulder pain. The muscles in the back of the shoulder (rotator cuff muscles) are particularly susceptible to imbalances, which can cause pain in the front of the shoulder.


As we age, our muscles and joints become less flexible and more susceptible to injury. Pickleball players who are older may be more prone to injury.

Prior Shoulder Injuries:

Players with shoulder injuries, such as a rotator cuff tear or shoulder impingement, may be more likely to experience shoulder pain while playing pickleball.

Understanding the causes of pain can help players take steps to prevent it. In the next section, we will discuss the symptoms so players know when to seek medical attention.

Pickleball Shoulder Pain

How Can You Prevent Rotator Cuff Injuries?

A rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that attach the shoulder blade to the upper arm bone. The rotator cuff muscles allow the arm to rotate and lift, making them essential for many daily activities, including playing pickleball. However, the rotator cuff muscles are also vulnerable to injury, especially in athletes who engage in repetitive overhead motions and hitting in pickleball.

Here are some ways to prevent rotator cuff tears in pickleball:


Before playing pickleball, it is essential to warm up the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the shoulder joint. This can include doing gentle shoulder rolls, arm circles, and stretches to prepare the rotator cuff muscles for the demands of the game.

Strengthening Exercises:

Specific exercises can help to strengthen the rotator muscles, reducing the risk of injury. Strengthening exercises include shoulder external and internal rotations, side-lying external rotations, and scapular stabilization exercises.

Correct Technique:

Learning proper pickleball techniques can help to prevent rotator cuff injuries. A coach or experienced player can teach proper grip, serve, and hitting techniques to avoid unnecessary stress on the shoulder joint.

Use Proper Equipment:

The type of paddle used in pickleball can impact shoulder health. Using a lighter-weight paddle and choosing one that fits your grip and size can help to reduce the risk of a shoulder injury.

Rest and Recovery:

Rest is essential for preventing rotator cuff injuries. Players should avoid overusing their shoulder muscles and take breaks when they feel pain or discomfort. Resting and allowing time for recovery can help prevent chronic injuries and promote healing.

Players can reduce the risk of rotator cuff injuries in pickleball by taking these preventative measures. If you experience pain or discomfort in your shoulder during or after playing pickleball, it is essential to seek medical attention to prevent further injury.

Physical Therpy For Pickleball Injury

Returning to Pickleball After Shoulder Pain

If you have experienced an injury during a pickleball game, it is crucial to take the necessary steps to recover fully before returning to the game. Returning too soon can lead to re-injury or chronic pain, which can be challenging to manage. Here are some tips for safely returning to pickleball after an injury:

Get Medical Clearance:

Before returning to pickleball, get medical clearance from a healthcare provider, especially if you are doing physical therapy. They can assess your condition and guide you on when it is safe to return to play.

Start Slow:

When returning to pickleball after an injury, starting slow and gradually increasing activity levels is essential. This may mean starting with shorter games or hitting sessions and gradually increasing the duration and intensity.

Incorporate Strengthening Exercises:

Strengthening exercises can help to rebuild the muscles and prevent future injury. Incorporating exercises recommended by a physical therapist or sports medicine doctor can help to ensure that the body is strong and healthy before returning to full activity.

Focus on Technique:

When returning to pickleball after an injury, it is important to focus on proper technique. This can help to reduce stress on the body and prevent re-injury.

Use Proper Equipment:

Using a properly fitted paddle and equipment can help to reduce stress on the body. Make sure to choose equipment that fits your grip and size and is appropriate for your skill level.

Following these tips, players can safely return after a pickleball injury. Remember, it is essential to prioritize recovery and take the necessary steps to prevent future damage.

Massage For Pickleball Pain

How Are Torn Rotator Cuff Fixed?

A rotator cuff injury can be fixed through various treatments, depending on the severity of the tear and the patient’s overall health. Here are some standard methods for repairing rotator cuff tears:

  1. Non-surgical treatments: For minor tears or those that do not cause significant pain or loss of function, non-surgical treatments may be recommended. These may include rest, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications.

  2. Arthroscopic surgery: For larger tears or those causing significant pain or loss of function, arthroscopic surgery may be recommended. This minimally invasive procedure involves making small incisions in the shoulder and using a small camera and surgical instruments to repair the tear.

  3. Open surgery: For more severe tears or those that have failed to heal with non-surgical or arthroscopic treatments, open surgery may be necessary. This involves making a larger incision in the shoulder and directly repairing the torn tendon or muscle.

  4. Tendon transfer: In some cases, a tendon transfer may be necessary to repair the rotator cuff. This involves taking a healthy tendon from another body part and using it to replace the damaged tendon.

After surgery or other treatments, physical therapy is typically necessary to help restore strength and function to the shoulder. Most patients can regain full function and return to normal activities with proper treatment and rehabilitation.

Wrapping Up

Shoulder pain is a common issue for pickleball players, particularly when it comes to rotator cuff injuries. However, there are steps that players can take to prevent these injuries from occurring, including proper warm-up, technique, and equipment selection. 

If damage does occur, seeking medical treatment and taking the necessary steps for recovery is essential to prevent chronic pain and re-injury. With proper care and attention, players can safely enjoy the sport of pickleball for years to come. Remember to listen to your body, take care of your shoulder health, and enjoy the game!