How to treat & prevent Swimmers Shoulder

(Estimated Read Time 2 Minutes)

Do you ever experience an aching feeling in your one or both of your shoulders while swimming? While training for my first Ironman, I experienced sharp pain in the front and underside of my left shoulder while swimming.

My first thought was that I had torn my rotator cuff and wasn't going to be able to train for or complete my Ironman race.  

It turns out I was experiencing what is known in the swimming community as "Swimmer’s Shoulder."  

In this blog I will share with you:

  • Description & cause of swimmer shoulder
  • Treatments for fast pain relie
  •  Injury prevention techniques

Swimmer Shoulder Description and cause of the issue:

As triathletes, we often hear the dreaded term "Over Use Injury."   It is so common across all three disciplines, I think of it as the new four letter word for triathletes.    

Swimmers develop muscle imbalances where the adductors and internal rotators of the arm over develop (due to the nature of swimming). Unfortunately, this leaves a relative weakness of the external rotators and scapular stabilizers - simply because they don’t get used as much. Consequently, this imbalanced muscle overuse and poor technique result in an anterior capsule laxity. These all culminate and allow the humeral head to move forward and up thereby, compromising the subacromial space (where the supraspinatus and biceps tendons run through) causing an irritation/impingement - Swimmer’s Shoulder.

Swimmer’s Shoulder Treatment:

While visiting my chiropractor (Dr. Logan Sherman), I described the pain I was experiencing.  Dr. Sherman is an elite runner who won the 2015 Dallas Marathon and understands the challenges athletes endure while training.  Dr. Sherman identified the cause of the issue and recommended Active Release Therapy (A.R.T.) to help relieve the tension and imbalance in the shoulder.

ART is a patented, state-of-the-art soft tissue system/movement based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves. Headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, and tennis elbow are just a few of the many conditions that can be resolved quickly and permanently with ART. These conditions all have one important thing in common: they are often a result of overused muscles.

To read athletes reviews of A.R.T. treatment for swimmer's shoulder visit: http://trinetwork.com/node/17?catId=106 .

Injury Prevention Techniques:

Strength Training:

As mentioned in the Swimmer’s shoulder description, the primary cause of this issue is due to muscle imbalance. Performing these shoulder strength exercises as a warm up before swimming can be helpful in preventing this type of injury.  

Here is a link to good shoulder strengthening exercises: https://youtu.be/c0wbm23_gMQ

Swimmer’s Technique:

In addition to muscle imbalances, poor swim technique is a primary cause of swimmer's shoulder. Everyone can benefit from working with a swim coach to analyze and correct your swim. I have been fortunate to work with swim coach Chris MacCurdy who is a master of perfect swim technique. 

If you are in the Dallas, TX area and would like to get in contact with my chiropractor / A.R.T. certified specialist or swim coach, leave a message in the comments section. 

Gone to Swim, Bike, Run

Scott Campbell