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Preventing Shoulder Pain From Swimming

Swimmers Can Prevent Shoulder Injury

The upper body works incredibly hard during swimming because so much of our propulsion comes from our arms’ action.

Back muscles such as the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and spinus erectus are at work, as well as muscles such as serratus anterior, exterior and interior obliques, and rectus abdominus. Most of our arm muscles play a critical role in swimming, but the shoulder joint muscles take a large part of the load.

The shoulder joint has a massive range of motion and is the most mobile joint in the entire body. However, the joint is necessarily unstable to allow for this extensive range of movement.

This wide range of motion in the shoulder enables us to perform the challenging freestyle, backcrawl, and breaststroke.


Ways How Swimmers Can Prevent Shoulder Injury

Strong shoulder muscles and a healthy shoulder joint are so important for swimming.

1. Join a learn to swim clinic, masters swim club, or take some swim lessons so that you can learn from the experts.

  • A qualified swim instructor can evaluate your stroke and guide you through any required stroke corrections.
  • It may be that you just need a minor tweak or two to get on the right track. 


2. See Your Health Care Provider

Three bones form the shoulder: the collar bone, shoulder blade, and the upper arm bone. Along with several muscles, the shoulder joint also has soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.

The shoulder joint is complex, so your doctor should address any pain or immobility before you get back to being active.

  • If your shoulder is in pain or its range of motion is limited, see your health care provider and follow their treatment recommendations.
  • Continuing to swim with a shoulder in pain may worsen the injury, leading to a chronic injury.
  • Get help before you start to experience “swimmer’s shoulder,” and you may avoid this painful situation altogether. 


3. Know Your Shoulder's Limitations

  • If you swim often and long distances, you should consider your shoulder joint’s repetitive action and the wear you are placing on the joint.
  • You may find that you have shoulder pain, a limited range of motion, or pain when swimming.
  • If you are in any kind of discomfort, it’s a sound idea to consult your doctor for an assessment.
  • An accurate diagnosis of what is causing your pain or limiting your range of motion and a carefully designed recovery plan is needed so that you can get back in the water. 


4. Strengthen Your Rotator Cuffs

The rotator cuff is often the source of shoulder pain.

  • Focused strength training of the rotator cuff is a must for the dedicated swimmer.
  • Think about the ease with which you can strengthen your shoulders and entire body using at-home resistance training gear.
The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles (subscapularis, infraspinatus, supraspinatus, and teres minor). Rotator cuff tears are common and are often due to normal wear and tear and repetitive movements like those used when swimming.

A rotator cuff injury causes weakness, pain in your shoulder even while resting, pain when lifting or lowering the arms, and a cracking feeling when you try to move the shoulder in certain directions. Pain can range from being very mild to sidelining. If you think you have a rotator cuff injury, it’s essential to seek an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan from a professional.


5. Assess Your Posture & Flexibility

  • Have a kinesiologist or physiotherapist assess your posture, flexibility, and any possible muscle imbalances.
  • Correcting these issues will help you to avoid developing any harmful and painful problems.
  • An aligned body with balanced muscle strength can function optimally in the pool and during all of your other fitness activities. 


6. Proper Swimming Techniques

Common injuries to the shoulder joint that can rear their ugly heads from swimming include irritation and inflammation, rotator cuff tendonitis, rotator cuff tears, shoulder impingement syndrome, cartilage tears, and biceps tendonitis.
  • Proper swimming techniques can prevent many of these injuries.
  • Poor stroke mechanics, less than optimal flexibility, and a limited range of motion are some causes of shoulder injuries.
  • Great swim technique is critical for your laps, but it will also help prevent shoulder injuries. 

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