Swimming and Shoulder Pain
Swimming has been revered as a great form of cardiovascular exercise, since it recruits multiple different muscle groups at once. However, it is also an exercise that involves of repetitive motions, especially of the shoulders. The shoulders, one of the most mobile joints in the body, are particularly subject to strain during swimming. As a consequence, swimmers are at a high risk of shoulder injuries – leading to the frequently used term “swimmer’s shoulder”.
Chances are you’ve heard of the “rotator cuff” before. “Swimmer’s shoulder” is commonly used to refer to an injury to one of the tendons of the rotator cuff. Many factors can cause an injury to one of these tendons: tight muscles, hypermobility of the shoulder, or even a poor swimming technique. While a “swimmer’s shoulder” injury can heal with time, it’s important to treat the root cause of the injury before going back to swimming, otherwise you may be just as likely to re-injure your shoulder.
As physiotherapists, we have experience in treating a wide variety of shoulder injuries. Our experience allows us to pinpoint specific issues that can put you at risk of developing such an injury.
If you’re not quite ready to see a physiotherapist or unsure if you need to, here are a few things to think of or try on your own beforehand:
Is Sitting The New Smoking?
It’s quite likely you’ve heard the saying “sitting is the new smoking”. This interesting concept, that’s made some notable headlines like the Globe and Mail and Forbes magazine, has been a popular subject the past few years. While it’s generally good advice, there are many other factors that can come into play.
The underlying principle is that prolonged periods of sitting decreases your energy expenditure (burning fewer calories throughout the day) which over time can have various consequences, similar to those associated to smoking. If you’re one of many who sits for long periods of time on a daily basis (sitting for several hours at a time for a total of more than 8 hours a day), research has shown that you may be at higher risk of developing conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, amongst other. (1). This is in addition to the increased risk of developing back and neck pain, as well as general stiffness.
Various strategies have been proposed to counter these risks, such as using a standing desk at work, taking regular breaks to get up from your desk, or even exercising more outside of work. Let’s take a minute to discuss how each of these strategies could benefit you.
The Battle Against "Text Neck"
Smartphone use is now more prominent than ever in our daily lives, especially amongst teens and young adults. According to a recent report, the average adult spent 3.5 hours on handheld devices (smartphones, tablets) daily. What’s worse, that trend is expected to increase even more in the next few years.
As you might have guessed, spending so much time on our phones puts excessive stress on our necks, as we tend to tilt our head forward and down to look at our device. A 2015 study lays out the degree to which this happens: when our head is directly on top of the shoulders, it puts 10 to 12 lbs on the neck, but when we tilt our heads down just 15 degrees, it increases to 27 lbs, and can even reach 60 lbs when tilting down 60 degrees.
Spending hours upon hours in that position applies constant strain and can lead to various neck and shoulder pains now commonly referred to as “text neck”. What’s even more alarming is that many of those conditions, if untreated, can become chronic and follow you for some time.
Luckily, there are things you can do to alleviate, or even proactively prevent developing “text neck” pains. Here are just a few suggestions: