Shoulder Pain with Overhead Arm Motions


Baseball, softball, swimming, tennis, volleyball, water polo, and other sports with overhead arm motion put large amounts of stress on the shoulder. Unfortunately, this can also lead to injury.

What should I do if my shoulder hurts?

Children should not continue to play sports with pain in their shoulders or elbow joints. The pain likely means that the shoulder or elbow is being worked too hard. Continuing to play can make the damage worse. 

How is shoulder pain treated?

Shoulder pain is usually treated with relative rest and rehabilitation.  

Relative rest means play may be allowed in non-painful activities. For example, a doctor may recommend that a swimmer do more dry-land workouts while they are out of the pool. For a baseball/softball player, this may mean a player is allowed to hit the ball, but not throw the ball.

Rehabilitation focuses on keeping the pain from returning when the player returns to the sport. There are many ways to recover from an injury. A few examples include: strengthening or stretching certain parts of the shoulder or elbow joints; improving overall physical conditioning; or making changes in strengthening or stretching. Even after returning to sports, the strengthening and stretching techniques must be used to stay healthy.

A sports physical therapist is key to guiding the rehabilitation process. Athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches, and other sports professionals have training in this area also.

How long does it take to get better?

It is best to let the shoulder completely heal before getting back to forceful overhead arm movements. For the shoulder to completely heal from injury, it typically takes anywhere from 1 to 12 months. In general, the longer the athlete has been hurting, the longer it takes to fully heal.

What structures are hurt in the shoulder?

The rotator cuff, subacromial bursa, superior labrum, biceps tendon, growth plates, and other parts of the arm, shoulder and upper back can cause pain. A sports medicine specialist can help identify the problem and guide the rehabilitation plan.