What is Swimmers Shoulder ?
Swimmers shoulder is a collective term for shoulder pain experienced by swimmers which describes soft tissue injury where a tendon (connects the muscle to bone) becomes impinged underneath the bony arch that forms the top of the shoulder blade (scapula). If treated properly early, it will minimise time out of the water due to deterioration and injury.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Benjamin Franklin
The ideal solution for a swimmers is to prevent “swimmers shoulder pain before it begins often it is easier than you think by being aware of the early tel tales signs of those at risk.
- Do you notice pain at the top, front or back of the shoulder
- Does pain radiate along the upper arm when on the pull-through or recovery phase of the swimming stroke.
- Do you notice pain in the back of the shoulder after 20-30 mins of swimming
- Does sleeping on the affected side aggravate the pain
What are the causes of Swimmers Shoulder?
The causes can be varied but often is the combination of overuse, incorrect technique and muscle stress. Sometimes t also referred to as impingement syndrome, is often due to a muscle instability or imbalance.
Below are 7 common causes of swimmers shoulder
- Insufficient body roll in freestyle
- Over-developed pectoral muscles and under-developed rhomboids, middle and upper trapezeii, levator scapulae, upper lats
- Weak rotator cuff muscles.
- Excessive internal rotation during “catch”: middle finger should enter water first, not thumb and index finger.
- Excessive adduction on the pull-through phase (your hand should not cross the midline).
- Dropped elbows occur if the internal rotators and adductors (pecs, lats) are not strong enough.
- Over-training with insufficient recovery time.
How do you treat Swimmers Shoulder?
Treatment is dependent on the underlying cause of your shoulder pain and you would need to see you physio to create an individual plan for you. You may or may not have to stop swimming depending on how severe the pain is and the treatment required.
The type of treatment you may expect from the physiotherapist could include
- soft tissue work and manual therapy on the involved muscles,
- address any muscle / stability imbalances
- receive an individualised exercise program to enhance shoulder mobility and increase endurance and strengthen of rotator cuff