Shoulder Pain in Downward Dog

Do you experience shoulder pain in downward dog that isn’t present in most of your other daily motions? The reasons you are feeling shoulder pain may not be what you think. In this video I’m going to talk about the top 3 reasons that yoga practitioners feel shoulder pain in downward dog, and then we’ll go over the best exercises and tips to get your downward dog feeling better. So hit that LIKE BUTTON and stay tuned.

Downward dog is one of the most common poses in yoga. Unfortunately, it’s also a pose that can cause shoulder pain in many people. Whether you’re an experienced yogi or just starting out, if your shoulders are hurting during downward dog, this video will help you understand why and how to fix it.

The reason why shoulder pain in downward dog happens is not always what you think it is! You may be thinking that your shoulders are just weak, but there’s more to the story than that.

The problem with shoulder pain from downward dog isn’t always the pose itself or that you are doing something wrong. It’s also possible that there may be underlying issues causing this discomfort which we’ll talk about later on in this video.

So without further ado, here are the top 3 things that may be causing your shoulder pain in downward dog. Watch the video below or read through the transcript below that.

#1: Not grounding properly throughout your hands and wrists.

If your hand is flat on the ground, there’s a VERY GOOD CHANCE you are going to have wrist or shoulder pain upon weight bearing. The fix for this, that no one ever talks about in yoga class, is to engage the muscles of your hands. Much like you’d engage the arch of your foot to prevent caving your foot inward when standing barefoot, you need to engage the “arch” of your hand. To do this, place a frozen pea, or a cheerio or a pencil eraser tip in the crease of your palm, the one that forms right there when you bring your thumb and pinky together. Good, now place your hand down again with your little pea or whatever small item you’re using right in that crease. Now, what do you need to do with your hand to not squish the pea? Right, you have to engage the muscles in your hands. When you’re in class and don’t have your pea, just pretend it’s hanging out there underneath that crease, and allow just a wee bit of space underneath that crease in your hand so that you wouldn’t smush your pea if it were on the mat with you. All the other parts of your hand and fingers can ground through the mat, and you should feel stronger engagement with this. I call this exercise FINDING YOUR INNER PEAS. 

OK, no more bad jokes coming up I promise, I couldn’t resist, let’s move on, 

#2: Improper shoulder rotation. 

To avoid shoulder pain in downward dog, you have to externally rotate your shoulders. If you aren’t sure what that looks like, keep your arms straight at your sides, and then twist in. Twist out. Twist in (internal rotation) Twist out (external rotation). 

OK great, and same idea when we come into shoulder flexion, internal external internal external, and then even further into shoulder flexion to arrive in downward dog. See what happens when you dump into internal rotation, your shoulders crunch up by your ears in a position of impingement. But look what happens when you go into external rotation, Aah, opening, space, expansiveness between your shoulders and your ears. And a more well supported and stable shoulder. A good cue for this is to ever so slightly rotate your hands outward as you place them on the ground for downward dog. Like, literally just one or two millimeters to remind you to externally rotate your shoulders. If your hands are significantly rotated outward, that may kick off a whole other chain of problems.

#3. Neck dysfunction

Even if you aren’t feeling any neck pain or discomfort, you may have an underlying neck issue that is affecting your shoulder strength or mobility. The nerves that go out to the shoulder and then the arms, stem from in between each of the neck bones. From computer posture, stress, repetitive movements, or previous injuries, the joints and muscles in your neck can get restricted and limit your movement and function. If you try several things to get out of that shoulder pain you’re feeling with downward dog, and it’s still bothering you, I’d recommend a check-up with a chiropractor to make sure the issue isn’t coming from upstream. And a sports chiropractor will also be able to diagnose whether you have a similar issue happening in your shoulder itself. The shoulder is a pretty complex set of muscles and other tissues and tightness in one or more of the muscles can really throw the biomechanics out of whack. Manual therapy treatments on those structures can help a lot at restoring mobility and function.

So I hope you learned something in this video about how to avoid shoulder pain in downward dog. If you’re experiencing this in your yoga practice and want to schedule a free consultation with an Oakland chiropractor, please click the button below.

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