Swimmer's Shoulder

Did you know the average high school swimmer performs between 1 and 2 million strokes annually with each arm? Whether you’re an athlete or just someone who likes to swim in their free time, swimmer’s shoulder can be a serious problem.

What is swimmer’s shoulder?

Swimmer’s shoulder, also known as shoulder impingement syndrome, is an umbrella term used to cover a range of painful injuries caused by overuse of the shoulder. Common in swimmers, this condition occurs thanks to the various parts of the shoulder that can be injured during a swimming stroke.

If you’re experiencing shoulder pain, read on to learn more about shoulder impingement syndrome including the causes, risks, treatments, and more.

Swimmer’s Shoulder Symptoms

Symptoms of swimmer’s shoulder include:

  • Pain and inflammation in the shoulder
  • Pain that extends into the neck or down the arm
  • Pain that worsens with weight on the affected shoulder
  • A decrease in joint mobility, control, or muscle performance

Swimmer’s Shoulder Causes

Swimmer’s shoulder has numerous potential causes, including:

  • Overuse of the shoulder joint
  • Excessive training
  • Not getting enough rest in between training
  • Improper swimming technique
  • Weak muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the shoulder
  • Imbalanced development of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the shoulder
  • A previous shoulder injury
  • An underlying cause

How is swimmer’s shoulder diagnosed?

Your doctor will first perform a physical exam and if they suspect you have swimmer’s shoulder, they’ll likely order X-rays and/or an MRI to assess any changes to the structure of the joint.

The medical provider will typically look for other signs of swimmer’s shoulder including a change in the pattern of your swimming stroke or the presence of ‘“lazy elbow”. Lazy elbow affects the same side of the body and inhibits the elbow from being lifted to a normal height without pain when out of the water.

Swimmer’s Shoulder Treatment

There are a few different treatment options for swimmer’s shoulder – but one of the most important things you can do is rest. Rest will allow the joint to heal properly.

Your doctor will likely recommend R.I.C.E. Enough rest, applying ice, and compressing and elevating the affected shoulder will ease your symptoms and allow the joint to heal.

Depending on your pain level, you may find that added support of a sling or shoulder tape helps.

If conservative forms of treatment don’t relieve the pain, you may need to have tendons or ligaments surgically repaired.

Swimmer’s Shoulder Recovery Time

If you’re eager to get back in the water, you’re undoubtedly wondering how long it will take for swimmer’s shoulder to go away. Shoulder impingement typically takes three to six months to heal completely. More serious cases of shoulder impingement can take up to a year.

You can typically return to your normal activities two to four weeks after your diagnosis, but it’s important to be cautious or you risk further injury. As always, talk to your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.

How to Prevent Swimmer’s Shoulder

Shoulder impingement is often caused by overuse of the shoulder. Be sure to get adequate rest in between swims and don’t push yourself beyond your limits. If you notice any pain in your shoulder before, during, or after a swim, take time off to not overwork your shoulder.

Always warm up properly before swimming. Swimming when your shoulders aren’t properly loosened up makes you more susceptible to injuring the muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Shoulder impingement can be a result of improper form while swimming. Be sure that you are swimming using proper technique. If something doesn’t feel good, it probably isn’t good for your body. You may need to modify your technique.

Best Exercises for Swimmer’s Shoulder

Certain exercises can help build muscles in the shoulder while also decreasing pain associated with swimmer’s shoulder. Here are three exercises to try:

1. Seated Rows

On a rowing machine, sit forward slightly on the seat and grasp the cable attached. Place your feet on the vertical platform and secure the straps around your feet.

Slide your hips back and position your knees so that they are at a light bend.

Pull the cable attachment to your waist while straightening your lower back in the process. Pull your shoulders back and push your chest forward while you arch your back slightly.

Return the cable by extending your arms with your shoulders stretched forward, flexing your lower back. Repeat 10 times for three sets.

2. Plank Hand Step-ups

Place a low step box in front of you and get into a push-up position. Make sure your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your ankle. Lift one hand off the ground and put it on the step box, then bring the other hand up.

Keep your core tight and move each hand, one at a time back down to the floor. This is considered one rep. Repeat 10 times for three sets.

3. Standing Double Arm External Rotation

Take a resistance band and hold it in front of you with both hands. Next, slowly move both of your hands to the sides, away from the body while keeping your elbows tucked close to your sides and pinching your shoulder blades together.

Slowly bring your hands back in front of your body while relaxing your shoulder blades. Repeat this 10 times for three reps.

Request An Appointment At The Orthopedic Clinic Today

At The Orthopedic Clinic, we want you to live your life in full motion. If you’re suffering from a swimming-related injury, let us help you get back in the water.

Call us at (386) 255-4596 to schedule an appointment.