Shoulder pain in swimmers is pretty common. The biggest reason for this is repetitive load. All swimming disciplines are characterised by repeating the same arm movement over and over again under load. For elite swimmers the best way to avoid injury is to monitor their training load. For the rest of us it’s probably more about other factors.
Unless you do it for a living, the vast majority of swimmers swim freestyle and even the most regular of swimmers do other things that expose the shoulder and thoracic spine to load. Most of the time shoulder pain for recreational swimmers are these 2 factors colluding to overwork your rotator cuff.
Freestyle involves loading the shoulder in a fully elevated position, which is a hard spot for your cuff to work. Most occupations involve your arm in the opposite position and a relatively stationary thoracic spine. It’s pretty easy for us to be a bit stiff between the back and the shoulder, and for the cuff to get a bit out of practice working up over your head, especially after winter!
The result of this, with repetitive load, is cuff fatigue and shoulder pain. As we know, pain inhibits muscle activity and triggers protective action from your nervous system. The net result is a shoulder that is gradually less able to handle your swim set.
So, to keep the shoulders spinning nicely,
- maintain the movement between your back and your shoulder
- practice loading your cuff in stroke specific positions
- get an expert coach to review your technique
- don’t ignore consistent pain with swimming
Give Newcastle Performance Physio a call and get back in the water.
Until next time, share this with your swimming buddy