What’s that pain?
The most common type of shoulder pain associated with pickleball is shoulder impingement. Impingement can be caused by pinching of tendons or bursae brought on by a chronic condition like arthritis. Or, the impingement can simply be caused by overuse and repetitive motion, such as during pickleball, especially when the strength and stability of the shoulder are lacking.
How do I fix the pain?
This type of shoulder pain is especially common in people over the age of 60. Symptoms include pain that worsens when lying on the side, pain with movement, or while performing certain activities, such as buckling a seatbelt or reaching behind the back. Unfortunately, the pain will not go away without corrective action.
The first course of treatment
For many people, shoulder impingement can improve with physical therapy. A physical therapist can work with patients one-on-one to strengthen and stabilize the area around the joint. This specialist also helps patients understand how to move in a way that prevents future injury. A physical therapist may also use pain management strategies such as ice and heat to help decrease discomfort.
Do I need surgery?
Shoulder impingement is characterized by overuse or injury of the rotator cuff tendons. If a patient receives treatment for the impingement and pain doesn’t improve within 6 months, a doctor may recommend rotator cuff surgery. Surgical repair may also be necessary if there is a tendon tear.
The most common procedure for this type of shoulder pain is a subacromial decompression (SAD). During the operation, the surgeon removes bone tissue to increase the space in the ball-and-socket shoulder joint. This helps to decrease the pain and squeezing in the rotator cuff. The surgery may also involve slightly shaving down the bone or removing a bone spur. This procedure improves symptoms in up to 90% of patients who have not had success with other treatments.
Is it time to talk to the pros?
While shoulder pain from pickleball is common, players should not assume the discomfort will go away without treatment. If the pain gets worse with movement and doesn’t go away after a few weeks, speak with a shoulder specialist. A healthcare provider can provide treatment options to help decrease shoulder pain and help patients find relief.