Swimming and Shoulder Pain: Understanding and Preventing Common Injuries

Jul 18, 2023
Swimming Picture
Shoulder pain can be a common problem for swimmers. In this blog we look at the common causes of shoulder pain in swimmers and provide valuable tips to prevent and manage it.

In the summer heat swimming can be a great exercise with many health benefits. Unfortunately, swimming can sometimes lead to injury, particularly shoulder pain. At A+ Athlete Sports Medicine we understand the unique challenges that swimmers face when it comes to shoulder pain. In this blog post, we will explore some common causes of shoulder pain among swimmers. 

The repetitive nature of swimming strokes, combined with the force exerted on the shoulder as a swimmer moves through the water, can contribute to the development of shoulder pain. Two common causes of shoulder pain in swimmers include rotator cuff tendinitis and shoulder impingement.  

Rotator cuff tendinitis occurs because swimming requires repetitive movement of the arms through a large range of motion, placing  strain on the rotator cuff tendons. Overuse or incorrect technique can ultimately lead to inflammation and tendinitis, causing pain and restricted mobility. In shoulder impingement, the repetitive motion of swimming can cause the tendons of the rotator cuff to rub against the shoulder blade (scapula), leading to inflammation. This condition can result in pain, weakness, and difficulty with overhead movements. Both conditions can lead to pain while when trying to get comfortable sleeping. 

At A+ Athlete Sports Medicine we take a comprehensive approach when it comes to preventing and managing shoulder pain in swimmers. Some tips to prevent shoulder pain when swimming are outlined below:

  • Gradual Training Progression: Avoid sudden increases in training volume or intensity, as they can overload the shoulder joint. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your swim workouts to allow your shoulder muscles and tendons to adapt and strengthen over time. 
  • Cross-Training and Strength Training: Incorporate cross-training exercises into your fitness routine to help build overall strength and improve muscle balance. It is especially important to strengthen the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, including the rotator cuff muscles as this can provide added stability and reduce the risk of injury. 

  • Warm-up and Cool-down: Prioritize a proper warm-up and cool-down routine before and after swimming. Dynamic stretches and mobility exercises can prepare your shoulders for the demands of swimming and help reduce the risk of injury. 

  • Maintain Proper Form: Consulting with a swimming coach for example can help identify any flaws in your stroke technique. Correcting these flaws can alleviate stress on the shoulder joint, reducing the risk of injury. 

  • Rest and Recovery: Listen to your body and allow for adequate rest and recovery between swimming sessions. Overtraining can increase the risk of overuse injuries. Incorporating rest days and alternate types of activities into your overall fitness routine can give your shoulder time to recover. 

If you experience persistent or severe shoulder pain that interferes with your daily activities or swimming performance, it is important to seek an evaluation by a sports medicine physician like Dr. Redlich and Dr. Thompson. They can help provide an accurate diagnosis by understanding how your symptoms developed, doing a through physical examination and incorporating appropriate imaging tests such as in-office ultrasound evaluation. They can then help develop a personalized treatment and rehabilitation plan tailored to your specific needs. 

Shoulder pain is a common concern among swimmers, but with the right knowledge and proactive approach, it can be effectively managed and prevented. By focusing on proper technique, gradual training progression, cross-training, and incorporating rest and recovery, swimmers can minimize the risk of shoulder injuries and stay in the pool.  

Remember to consult with a sports medicine physician for personalized guidance on managing and preventing shoulder pain. With a proactive mindset and proper care, swimmers can stay in the water and keep their shoulders healthy for a long time. 

At A+ Athlete Sports Medicine we can keep you on track and keep you in the pool. If you’ve been experiencing shoulder pain, schedule an appointment at our Robbinsville or Neptune office by phone or online today.