For you current and future pickleball players with or without pain: what you need to know!

If you’re not playing pickleball, you probably know someone who is obsessed with it.

Few sports have soared in popularity as quickly as Pickleball. In fact, participation in pickleball grew by 21.3% between 2019 and 2020, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. 4.2 million people played in 2020…and that’s before a pandemic increased interest in outdoor activities.

The sport is a fast-paced combo of tennis, ping-pong, and badminton. So, it is fun, social, and particularly beloved by people aged 50 and over, who want to remain active. But as pickleball’s popularity has soared, so have the number of pickleball related pains, strains, and sprains!

3 people on a pickleball court with famous actors and actresses inserted over the heads while they run around chasing multiple pickleballs.
Pickleball is played on a shorter court with a wiffle- like ball, keeping adults active but not running too far or fast.

While pickleball is generally considered low-impact, you can still experience shoulder pain due to the repetitive overhead swings required to hit the ball.

But that doesn’t mean that I want people to stop playing pickleball!!

Pickleball is a great option for those who cannot handle the more physical demands of other games and sports but want to remain active. Because it is so fun and fast- paced, pickleball is viewed more as a fun time and less of a boring workout.

Causes of shoulder pain in pickleball players

Shoulder pain in pickleball players is typically caused by overuse or poor technique. The repetitive overhead swings/sweeping/slicing motions required to hit the ball can put a lot of strain on the shoulder joint. Particularly the rotator cuff muscles and tendons. When these muscles and tendons become fatigued, damaged, or inflamed, players can experience pain, weakness, and limited range of motion in the shoulder.

Bursitis and tendonitis are also common diagnoses due to the repetitive motions. All 3 of these diagnoses DO NOT HAPPEN WITH ONE CATASTROPHIC EVENT. Rather, each of these problems occurs slowly over time and can lead to larger tears and problems that become more painful and problematic.

Furthermore, when players use improper form, they may place unnecessary strain on the shoulder joint, leading to pain and injury over time. For example, players who swing with their arm instead of using their entire body to generate power can strain the rotator cuff muscles and tendons, leading to pain and inflammation.

How to prevent shoulder pain in pickleball players

Here are some steps you can take to help prevent shoulder injuries while playing pickleball:

  1. WARM UP PROPERLY: Increasing mobility and strength in the shoulder and ensuring that you are properly “warmed up” before playing pickleball can help reduce the risk of sprains, strains, and tears in the rotator cuff. So, whether you are an avid player or a weekend warrior, you should be doing a regular routine of active stretches and strengthening exercises every week. Stretches can be done without any equipment, and strengthening exercises can be done using resistance bands, weights, or body weight.
  2. USE PROPER TECHNIQUE: As we mentioned earlier, poor technique can contribute to shoulder pain in pickleball players. To avoid injury, make sure you are using proper form when hitting the ball. This may involve using your entire body to generate power, rather than relying solely on your arm.
  3. BUILD UP YOUR STRENGTH GRADUALLY: If you are new to pickleball or returning from an injury, it is important to gradually build up your strength and endurance. Starting with shorter playing sessions and gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your workouts can help prevent overuse injuries like shoulder pain.
  4. TAKE BREAKS AND REST AS NEEDED: If you start to experience shoulder pain or fatigue during a game, take a break and rest your shoulder. Continuing to play through the pain can lead to more serious injury and a longer recovery time.

Now, what do I do with an injury?

First, of all – don’t push through the pain. If the pain is not severe, you can start with conservative treatment at home. Rest the shoulder joint for a day or two. Take a few days off and see if the irritation settles down. Apply ice to the area that is sore. And use anti-inflammatory medications to try and reduce pain and inflammation. Get small range of motion exercises and stretching in at home. If the pain persists, your shoulder and arm movements are severely limited, or the pain is keeping you awake at night, call our office and schedule an appointment for an evaluation.

Physical therapy/exercise treatment is another excellent tool for managing rotator cuff injuries. This is the main tool we use at Impulse Chiropractic and Rehab: it helps patients rebuild mobility, movement, and strength throughout the shoulder.

Is pickleball BAD for my shoulders?

NO. Pickleball has increased fitness, activity levels, and quality of life for millions of Americans. The benefits of playing pickleball far outweigh the risks of injuring your shoulder. However, you can reduce some risks by keeping your shoulders mobile and strong and addressing aches and pains before a little problem turns into a big one.

Shoulder pain is a common injury in pickleball players, but it can be prevented and treated with the proper precautions and care. By warming up properly, using proper technique, gradually building up your strength, and taking breaks when needed, you can reduce your risk of shoulder pain and injury and enjoy the game of pickleball for years to come.

Schedule a call with me a call if you need me (386-200-9367), or check out more on our website for information:

Talk with you all soon!

-Dr. Casey