Shoulder pain is very common amongst the swimming population. Swimmers shoulder also known as impingement syndrome, is an inflammatory condition of the narrow bony space in the top of the shoulder. See the diagram below.
The rotator cuff tendons as well as the biceps tendon can become irritated as they pass through or next to this space as the space is compromised by poor technique, weak muscles, or postural position. The friction caused in this area causes inflammation and pain in the front of the shoulder.
All phases of the swimming stroke can impact on this part of the shoulder and cause problems. We have listed the top risk factors for developing shoulder pain so next time you are in the pool think about your freestyle technique to see if you can maximise your positioning to increase your power as well as protect your shoulder.
Top Risk Factors
1 One sided breathing
2 Over reaching your stroke
3 Crossing your midline with arm as you pull through
4 Hand higher than your elbow when the arm exits the water
5 Over developed muscles at the front of our chest, weak muscles at the back of the chest
6 Overtraining; swimming with fatigued muscles
7 Reduced mid back rotation
8 Turning your palm out as your hand enters the water
9 Use of hand paddles when the arms are not strong enough
10 Use of kick board if mid back is too tight.
How can Physiotherapy help?
It is important to note that if you get persistent pain in your shoulder whilst swimming, you need to stop swimming and get the shoulder assessed by your Physiotherapist.
We will need to determine if you have any damage to the tendons. We will also make sure your shoulder and surrounding muscles are not too tight and identify any exercises to help you strengthen the shoulder and maximise your swimming technique!
Written by Lucy Tighe