Identifying And Treating Swimmer’s Shoulder

Swimming usually has little to no stress on your joints and bones, but swimmers exert most of their energy through the repetition of arm revolutions. This makes the shoulders the most vulnerable joint in the body which can lead to ‘swimmer’s shoulder.’ If your shoulders are more sensitive to touch or you feel pain even when not swimming, you could possibly have swimmers shoulder.

Some simple causes of swimmers shoulder can occur outside of the pool like posture. Poor posture such as rounded shoulders and a flat back can cause a restraint on spinal motion, a motion that is regularly used in swimming. Fixing your posture can also help reduce any shoulder pain, and if you are correcting your posture, you can pair it with exercises.

Another simple step to getting rid of possible swimmers shoulder is to stop doing any motions that hurt. We tend to repeat motions that are painful to understand that these parts of our bodies still hurt. If you reduce the number of times you make a hurtful movement, you are decreasing inflammation and damage to the area. If you are constantly moving the painful areas, you are elongating and aggravating the injury, not leaving any time for it to repair itself.

Symptoms of Swimmer’s Shoulder

It is possible that you have swimmers shoulder if you feel pain in the rotator cuff, deep in the muscles along the back of your shoulder or even occasional pain in the front of the shoulder. The more you repetitively reach over your head when swimming the more the pain will increase. And the longer you swim, the more damage you can do.

The pain can even be felt more at night or when a swimmer practices or competes in freestyle. You may even notice a forward shoulder slouch while sitting.

Why Does Swimmer’s Shoulder Happen?

Due to the excessive and strenuous amount of times swimmers reach overhead, you are more likely to develop swimmers shoulder especially if you are using the wrong technique.

It is more common from freestyle stroke and less from the backstroke or butterfly stroke. If ones hand is pitched outward with a thumb first entry this can lead to an extreme internal rotation and lead to acute pain in the shoulder aka the ‘over-use.’ Instead of leading with the thumb, it is best to enter the water with a flat hand, finger tips first.

What Can I Do to Alleviate Pain from Swimmer’s Shoulder?

While you wait to be seen by an Osteopathic Doctor, there are a few steps you should do to ease the pain of your swimmer’s shoulder. Swimmer’s shoulder can get worse is you continue to swim, so the first step is to take a break from swimming. You should also stop moving your arms in a way that provokes shoulder pain in your everyday life. If you successfully stop this continuous rotation of the rotator cuff, the injured tissue will begin to heal.

Osteopathic Treatment Options

The best way to determine if you have swimmer’s shoulder is to consult an Osteopathic Doctor who can diagnosis what mechanism in your shoulders has been damaged. The earlier you find out about the pain, the better off you will be and the less time you will need to recover. The longer you wait, the more inflamed swimmer’s shoulder can become.
An Osteopathic Doctor will do an assessment of your joints and muscles and from there perform a variety of noninvasive techniques such as manual therapy or massage. Doctors will apply gentle pressure to the viscera to encourage mobility and tissue motion. They can also try to manipulate the vertebrae to increase range of motion and improve functionality.

An osteopathic will also suggest physical therapy, and exercises. They will also discuss goals, time frames and training schedules for you to return to swimming.

Dr. David Johnston Dr. David Johnston is a licensed, board certified osteopathic physician with more than twenty years experience working with infants, children, and adults. He pursued his childhood dream of becoming a physician and currently has a successful private practice in Ridgefield, CT.

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