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Why tennis players get shoulder pain and how they can fix it

I’m Dr. Erin Boynton and I’m an
orthopaedic surgeon who happens to just love tennis.
I play tennis and I’ve worked with a lot of professional tennis players. I’m the
doctor for the Rogers Cup–for the WTA Tour when the ladies come to Toronto and–
I’ve helped numerous professional athletes with sports injuries. One of the
common areas that I’ve noticed that has been a problem for tennis players in
particular in recovering from is shoulder pain. And I think that this
happens because many times the treating therapists don’t recognize the imbalance
of the soft tissues around the shoulder. What do I mean by that? if we look at if
we look at the arm from the side, there’s a circle. And what happens when we do
repetitive activities such as serving, is that the tissues on the back of the
shoulder get tight. And when they get tight, it changes the way that the
humeral head moves within the glenoid socket. So it ends up causing an
obligatory motion of the humeral head rising up and actually pinching the
rotator cuff tendon at the front of the shoulder. So even though the problem is
at the back, where the tightness is, the pain is felt at the front. Until you balance
the shoulder–that is stretch the back of the shoulder–no matter how much you try
to strengthen the rotator cuff, or how much you try to waken up the shoulder
stabilizers, it won’t work. So the first thing you have to do relax the tissues
around the shoulder, make sure you have good range of motions and then stretch
the posterior capsule. And my favorite stretch for stretching the posterior
capsule is what’s called the sleeper stretch. You do the sleeper stretch by
lying on your side on the affected shoulder. You have your
arm at about 90 degrees to your body, your legs are bent. And what you’re trying to
do here is stabilize your shoulder blade on your chest wall. I’m going to sit
up again. Because if if you just try and stretch the back of your shoulder, you
can see how I’m pulling my shoulder blades right across my chest wall. So by
lying on my side and on my shoulder blade, you can see that I’m able to
prevent the shoulder blade from sliding around my chest. So now what I do is I
just roll over onto the shoulder blade, and then I put my opposite hand on the
back of my forearm, and I press my hand towards my hip. So I’m pressing my right
hand towards my hip. And you want to hold this for about 90 seconds. Now, when
you’re doing this it shouldn’t be painful. You should not be feeling pain
in the front of the shoulder. You want to feel a stretch at the back of your
shoulder. If you get in this position and you don’t feel a stretch, try changing
the position of your arm. You can put your elbow down a little bit or up a
little bit, and this will change where you’re stressing the back of your capsule.
If none of that works, then get a piece of foam or a towel, and elevate your
elbow so that when you’re you’re doing the stretch, you’re accentuating the
posterior capsular stretch. I find this much more effective with the foam than just
flat on the on the bed. And you repeat the stretch. As soon as you’re finished
doing the sleeper stretch, then what I want you to do is to activate the
rotator cuff muscle by lying on your back, your arms again in the goal post
position. Activate your core, and then push the back of your hand into
the floor. Hold it for six seconds and repeat six times. And what you’ll find is
that after you’ve rebalanced your shoulder by stretching the back of the
capsule, the posterior capsule, your strengthening efforts will be much more
effective and you’ll be able to get back to playing the sport you love.

David Frank



  1. MD M Posted on October 18, 2017 at 3:46 am

    Great Tips. Thank you

  2. Przemek S Posted on December 4, 2017 at 9:51 pm

    thank you for this video, it helped me so much! I knew this stretch but it didn't work for me(feeling pain, not stretch) until I changed the position of the elbow as you suggested.

  3. vccc10 Posted on February 24, 2018 at 2:17 am

    Is there a exercise for a feeling of burning in the shoulder joint?…I used to think it was the rotator cuff, but Im not sure.Thanks

  4. Tom N. Posted on February 26, 2018 at 2:19 am

    I think this will definitely help with my shoulder issues from serving. Thank you!

  5. On Rail Posted on March 24, 2018 at 10:42 am

    Great tip. That's exactly where the pain is in my shoulder. Do you know what cause the pain on tennis court? Is it because of wrong motion or to hevy racket?

  6. Alvaro Del Rio Posted on May 21, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Thank you so much, just what i needed for my sholuder pain

  7. WebTennis24 Posted on June 27, 2018 at 9:25 am

    Excellent information. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Sophie Kamalaksi Posted on July 9, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. After playing tennis, for me the pain is in the back part of the shoulder not in the front though.

  9. Fazri Faz Posted on July 15, 2018 at 2:24 am

    Thank you for sharing..

  10. Bran 23 Posted on August 9, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    Wtf would you have a dog during a demonstration. Stupid !

  11. korako kora Posted on November 11, 2018 at 10:38 am

    👍👍👍 Thank you

  12. MrBluzhound Posted on December 6, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Thanks for posting. Your explanation fits my deal. I’ll try anything at this point….

  13. christophe jousse Posted on January 10, 2019 at 6:00 pm

    waow excellent, thank you

  14. Jawad Bel Posted on January 27, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    best stretching ever!!

  15. Asger Tornquist Posted on March 3, 2019 at 12:52 am

    Wow, this is great! Thanks! — My own physio always says to me to “stretch and strengthen”. Do you have any rotator cuff strength exercises to add to the stretching?

  16. Mike Sereny Posted on March 30, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    how often should i do this? my shoulder is a mess

  17. Akin Posted on April 8, 2019 at 9:09 pm

    Thanks so much these stretches helped a lot!!! 😁😁😁

  18. ZOPILOTE LECHE Posted on April 17, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with fellow tennis and sport enthusiasts!!

  19. Human Entity Posted on April 28, 2019 at 2:02 am

    You look like a good tennis player looking at that forehand and backhand slice. Thanks for sharing advice on shoulder pain. I'm going through it now because of my serve action.

  20. Isabella GM Posted on May 30, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    great video! My shoulder feels better after one round of stretching. Balance the shoulder first, then strengthen. Great advice for tennis-related strains. Thanks for taking the time to post this excellent video.

  21. Human Entity Posted on June 18, 2019 at 5:40 am

    I finally went to orthopedic surgeon after meeting general physician few weeks ago ( recommended anti inflammatory gel and some physical therapy). Orthopedic surgeon saw x-ray and did not notice any issues. They moved arm and checked shoulder strength and said there's no tear. For pain, they gave me some steroid pills: MethylPrednisolone. They also requested me to continue physical therapy. I'm not sure about steroid pill. What do you recommend since pain is constant and radiates from shoulder to forearm/elbow

  22. TheJanicetunes Posted on July 5, 2019 at 12:18 am

    Thank you so much for the tips!!

  23. Reed Gage Posted on September 29, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    Wow. This is magic. I followed along with the video, pausing it at times to do the exercises. AND now I feel almost complete relief !! (I had a sore shoulder for 2 days after practicing serving a lot)