Shoulder Pain When Squatting: Causes and Solutions

shoulder pain when squatting

Shoulder pain during squats can be a frustrating and limiting issue for many individuals, especially those who engage in regular strength training or weightlifting. Whether you’re an experienced lifter or someone just starting with squats, encountering discomfort or pain in your shoulders during this exercise can hinder your progress and potentially lead to more severe problems if not addressed correctly. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the common causes of shoulder pain during squats, explore effective treatments to alleviate the discomfort and provide you with a range of exercises and preventive measures to ensure you can squat pain-free. Let’s not allow shoulder pain to hold you back from your fitness goals; instead, let’s discover the solutions to keep you squatting with confidence.

Understanding Shoulder Pain During Squats

Understanding Shoulder Pain During SquatsBefore we explore the solutions, it’s essential to understand why shoulder pain can occur during squats. There are various factors and causes to consider, including:

1. Poor Squatting Form: Incorrect squatting technique is one of the most common reasons for shoulder pain during squats. When you fail to maintain proper form, such as leaning forward, rounding your back, or not positioning your shoulders correctly, it can put excessive stress on your shoulder joints and the surrounding structures.

2. Barbell Placement: The placement of the barbell on your upper back is crucial. If the barbell is positioned too high, near your neck, or too low, near the lower back, it can lead to discomfort and instability during squats.

3. Muscle Imbalances: Weakness or imbalances in the muscles supporting the shoulder joint can result in poor stability, which can lead to pain during squats.

4. Inflexibility: Limited shoulder mobility or tightness in the chest and shoulders can cause discomfort, especially when attempting deep squats.

5. Preexisting Conditions: If you have a history of shoulder injuries or underlying conditions like rotator cuff problems, these issues can be exacerbated during squats.

6. Overtraining: Performing squats too frequently or with excessive weight can strain the shoulder muscles and lead to pain and overuse injuries.

Understanding these factors can help pinpoint the cause of your shoulder pain during squats, which is essential for implementing effective solutions.

Exercises for Shoulder Pain Relief

Incorporate these exercises into your routine to alleviate shoulder pain during squats:

External Rotator Cuff Strengthening

    • Stand with your arm at your side and a resistance band anchored at waist height.
    • Hold the band with your affected hand, keeping your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle.
    • Rotate your forearm outward against the resistance of the band.
    • Slowly return to the starting position.
    • Perform 10-15 repetitions on each side.

Face Pulls

    • Attach a rope handle to a cable machine at chest height.
    • Hold the rope with both hands, palms facing down.
    • Step back a few feet to create tension in the cable.
    • Pull the rope towards your face, focusing on squeezing your shoulder blades together.
    • Hold for a moment, then slowly release.
    • Perform 10-15 repetitions.

Foam Rolling

Foam Rolling

    • Use a foam roller to target the upper back and shoulders.
    • Lie on your back with the foam roller positioned horizontally under your upper back.
    • Place your hands behind your head for support, keeping your elbows wide.
    • Slowly roll up and down, focusing on areas that feel tight or tender.
    • Spend about 1-2 minutes on each area.

Shoulder Dislocations

    • Hold a resistance band with both hands, arms extended in front of you.
    • Slowly raise the band overhead and behind your head.
    • Continue to lower it down your back as far as your flexibility allows.
    • Reverse the motion to bring the band back to the starting position.
    • Perform 10-15 repetitions.

Incorporate these exercises into your routine to strengthen the shoulder muscles and improve mobility. Performing them regularly can help reduce shoulder pain when squatting and enhance your overall shoulder health. However, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have a preexisting shoulder condition or severe pain. They can provide guidance on the most suitable exercises for your specific needs.

When to Seek Medical Treatment

when to seek treatment

While self-care measures and exercises can be effective for many cases of shoulder pain when squatting, there are situations where seeking medical treatment is essential. Here are some key indicators that should prompt you to consult with a healthcare provider:

1. Persistent Pain: If your shoulder pain while squatting persists or worsens despite rest and conservative treatments, it’s crucial to get a professional evaluation.

2. Severe Pain: If you experience severe shoulder pain, especially if it’s sudden and sharp, it could be a sign of a more serious issue, such as a rotator cuff tear or labral tear.

3. Limited Range of Motion: If your shoulder’s range of motion is significantly restricted, preventing you from performing everyday activities or squats with proper form, it’s time to see a healthcare provider.

4. Weakness or Instability: If you notice weakness or a sense of instability in your shoulder joint while squatting or during other movements, it may indicate an underlying problem that requires medical attention.

5. Numbness or Tingling: Any numbness or tingling radiating down your arm or into your hand could suggest nerve involvement.

6. Trauma or Injury: If your shoulder pain started after a specific injury or trauma, such as a fall or collision, or if there’s a visible deformity or swelling, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical care.

7. Fever or Infection Signs: Should you develop signs of infection like fever, chills, or redness and warmth around the shoulder joint, consult a healthcare professional promptly.

8. Previous Shoulder Issues: If you have a history of shoulder problems, surgeries, or recurrent issues, it’s advisable to consult a specialist for a thorough assessment.

9. Difficulty Sleeping: Persistent shoulder pain that interferes with your ability to sleep can significantly impact your quality of life and may require medical attention.

10. Age and Ongoing Pain: For older individuals, persistent shoulder pain may be a sign of age-related changes in the joint, such as osteoarthritis. Seeking medical advice can help manage and slow down the progression of these conditions.

When any of these red flags appear, it’s essential not to delay seeking medical evaluation. A healthcare provider, such as an orthopedic specialist or physical therapist, can conduct a thorough examination, order imaging tests if necessary, and provide a precise diagnosis. This enables them to tailor a treatment plan to your specific condition, ensuring the best possible outcome for your shoulder health.

Remember that timely medical intervention can prevent further complications, chronic pain, and long-term limitations in your ability to perform activities like squats and other exercises. So, prioritize your shoulder health and seek professional help when needed to get back to pain-free and enjoyable physical activities like squatting.

Treating Shoulder Pain During Squats

Addressing shoulder pain during squats involves a combination of self-care, form correction, exercises, and in some cases, professional guidance. Here are some effective strategies to consider:

1. Evaluate Your Form: The first step is to assess and improve your squatting technique. Ensure you’re maintaining proper form, including keeping your chest up, back straight, and shoulders relaxed. Seek guidance from a fitness professional if needed to refine your form.

2. Adjust Bar Placement: Experiment with different barbell placements to find the one that suits you best. The high bar position rests on your upper traps, while the low bar position sits lower on the back. Proper bar placement can significantly impact shoulder comfort during squats.

3. Warm-Up Thoroughly: Before squatting, perform a dynamic shoulder warm-up routine. This may include exercises like arm circles, shoulder rolls, and wall angels to enhance shoulder mobility and flexibility.

4. Strengthen Shoulder Muscles: Incorporate targeted shoulder strength training exercises into your workout routine. Focus on exercises that strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, rear deltoids, and upper back, as these muscles play a crucial role in shoulder stability during squats.

5. Improve Shoulder Mobility: Regularly perform stretching exercises designed to improve shoulder mobility. Doorway stretches, chest openers and shoulder dislocations can help reduce tightness and increase your range of motion.

6. Rest and Recovery: Allow adequate time for your shoulder muscles to recover between squatting sessions. Overtraining can lead to shoulder strain and exacerbate pain.

7. Reduce Weight: If your shoulder pain persists, consider reducing the weight you’re lifting during squats. Gradually increase the weight as your shoulder strength improves.

8. Consult a Professional: If your shoulder pain is severe, persistent, or the result of a previous injury, it’s advisable to consult a sports medicine specialist, orthopedic physician, or physical therapist. They can provide a thorough evaluation and recommend a personalized treatment plan, which may include targeted exercises and interventions.


Shoulder pain during squats is a common issue, but it’s one that can be effectively managed and even prevented. By understanding the causes of shoulder pain, implementing proper form, performing targeted exercises, and seeking professional guidance when necessary, you can continue to enjoy the benefits of squatting without discomfort or pain. Remember, safety and proper technique should always be a priority in your fitness routine. If you experience persistent or severe shoulder pain, consult a healthcare professional or physical therapist for a thorough evaluation and personalized treatment plan. With the right approach, you can overcome shoulder pain and continue to progress in your strength training journey.

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