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:
- If you’ve learned to swim by yourself, look into a session with a trainer to learn proper technique. Proper biomechanics are important for injury prevention. Little tweaks to your swimming technique can make a big difference!
- Try to vary swimming techniques within a session. Switching swimming styles, say from freestyle to backstroke, helps to avoid over-straining your shoulders with a singular repeated movement.
- Give yourself proper breaks between swimming sessions. It’s important to allow your muscles to recover from vigorous activity. If you’re wanting to stay active, you can always try switching it up with another type of exercise, like as cycling or running.
- Incorporate some upper back stretches into your routine. A stiff upper back can lead to hypermobility in the shoulder as a compensation. Look into incorporating some thoracic extension and thoracic rotation exercises.