Just as Runners are prone to knee and foot overuse injuries, Swimmers often experience pain in the shoulders.
“Swimmers Shoulder” is an umbrella term that can be attributed to any pain in the shoulder area that is not caused by direct trauma.
Swimming puts your shoulder joint through a huge range of motion. This has the potential to cause irritation during the high number of repetitive movements that you take during training and racing. A healthy shoulder joint should not have any problems with this range of motion, but if you have poor stroke technique, reduced thoracic flexibility or you are training too much then your shoulder is more prone to injury. Common stroke mistakes that can cause problems are – Crossing the centre line on hand entry, not rotating the body, unilateral breathing, low elbow on recovery. The pain is likely to be caused by inflammation resulting from an imbalance between the different muscles operating in that area.
Possible treatments that can help include:
Regular massage during your training phase in order to release tension around the whole shoulder complex and improve range of motion and flexibility.
If you do get injured, for immediate relief, the P.R.I.C.E. protocol should be used (Protect, Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) however it is likely that only P.R. and I. will be practical and necessary.
Sleeping on your back will relieve the pressure and pain on the shoulder and improve arm position in the shoulder joint socket.
Rehabilitation will involve improvement to posture, both in the pool and out, strengthening the rotator cuff muscles that support the joint, increasing flexibility and rotation of the thoracic spine and reviewing your swim technique.
All of these things will need to be taken slowly. Exercises should be performed regularly and pain free before returning to the previous swim work-load.
Swimmers shoulder pain can take a while to resolve and every swimmer will be different. A specialist Physiotherapist may need to work with the swimmer and coach to achieve the best outcome. Prevention is definitely better that cure so best to work on the things mentioned above or give me a call to discuss, if you think I can help you.