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Swimming Shoulder: Pain, Causes and Treatments

Swimming Shoulder

What is a Swimmer Shoulder?

Among the most complicated joints in the human body is the shoulder. It's made to allow for a wide range of motion. Swimming is unusual in that case because the weight of the body is propelled against the resistance of water through the shoulders.

The most effective swimming requires a wide range of motion and suppleness. Increased shoulder laxity or instability can occur as a result of this. Approximately 90% of all swimmers' complaints to their healthcare provider are connected to shoulder issues, with swimmer's shoulder being one of the most common. This is frequently linked to an unwanted increase in joint laxity. Swimming is done in a fluid medium, which provides greater resistance to movement than air. This unusual mix of demands can result in a variety of overuse problems in the swimmer's shoulder, the most frequent of which is rotator cuff tendonitis.

What are the major causes of swimmer's shoulder?

Swimming is a popular summer activity, which is one of the many reasons why you should know what causes a swimmer's shoulder. It's crucial to remember, however, that a swimmer's shoulder isn't limited to swimmers. Athletes that do repetitive motions with their shoulders, such as volleyball, baseball, and softball players, are at risk. Swimmer's shoulder may affect any athlete who employs their shoulder muscles in repetitive overhead motions.

Simply put, constant strain on our shoulder joint can cause tendon and muscle tissue irritation. Tiny tears may form, resulting in irritation and scar tissue. This will make it difficult for the joint to move freely. Furthermore, recurrent motions utilizing the same group of muscles in our shoulders can cause muscular imbalance and joint limitation, and we may develop swimmer's shoulder as a result of this persistent exertion.

While overuse of the shoulder is one of the most common causes of swimmer's shoulder, it can also be caused by other reasons. Injury might result from a past shoulder injury, bad posture, poor stroke technique, or insufficient rest.

What are swimmer shoulder symptoms?

The earliest symptoms of a swimmer's shoulder are sometimes misinterpreted as soreness; nevertheless, it's critical to distinguish between typical muscular soreness and tiredness and the signs of an overuse injury.

  • Increase in the joint laxity in one shoulder as compared to the other
  • Change in your stroke pattern or "lazy elbow"
  • Localized inflammation and pain in your shoulder
  • Reduce in the strength of one shoulder compared to the other
  • Decrease in the range of motion in one shoulder as compared to the other
  • Difficulty reaching the area behind your back
  • Worsening pain when lying on your shoulder

How to diagnose shoulder impingement?

When you reach your arm up, you may feel a pinching feeling in your shoulder. A diagnosis, which needs a visit to a health care practitioner, is the only way to know for sure.

  • Patient Medical History
    The person should be prepared to give a detailed account of their symptoms, including the kind, duration, and location of their discomfort. Any injury to the shoulder region, no matter how slight, should be reported to a physician.
  • Physical Examination of Patient:
    During a physical examination, physical therapists will assess the range of motion of the shoulder and search for symptoms like soreness or swelling. Orthopedic tests can be performed to simulate the pain that a person feels in their daily activities. For example; Neer sign test, Hawkins-Kennedy Test
  • Radiological examination:
    The following types of medical imaging may be conducted to confirm or rule out a shoulder impingement diagnosis:
  • X-rays:
    Soft tissue is not visible on X-rays, hence they cannot be utilized to detect shoulder impingement.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI):
    An MRI will provide you a clear picture of the soft tissue around your shoulder. Inflammation and/or tears of the rotator cuff and bursa can be shown on MRIs.

Is Physical Therapy good for swimmer’s shoulder?

Physical therapy, which involves both stretching and strengthening exercises, is the most effective treatment choice for more serious or chronic episodes. When it comes to preventing injury, stretching before a workout is critical. Stretches assist in the warming up of muscles and the preparation of the body for action. Before you go in the water, give them a shot: Doorway Pec Stretch, Behind Back Lock Stretch, Thread the Needle, Cross Arm Stretch, Wall Press, Child’s Pose, Thread the Needle, Tricep Stretch

Physical therapists can help athletes not only heal from shoulder impingement but also avoid future injury by using strengthening exercises, effective stretches, and massage. PTs will also give the required information, such as firm advice, to help you succeed in your sport in the future. Physical therapy can also help swimmers improve their range of motion and flexibility, two important components in their success. A physical therapist will not only diagnose the condition, but will also assist you in selecting the appropriate treatment choice.

Plano Physical Therapy Center is here to save you all swimmers as always. We can help you establish a strategy to reduce or eliminate shoulder discomfort as your physical therapists. If you have been diagnosed with shoulder discomfort or are experiencing symptoms of swimmer's shoulder, please contact us right away.

Swimmer’s shoulder needs surgery?

Once the diagnosis is established, conservative treatments such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), corticosteroid injections, cold packs, and physical therapy are usually used. If these methods don't work within a few weeks, or if the rotator cuff or other tissues have been damaged, surgery to enlarge the space surrounding the joint, eliminating compression and impingement of the rotator cuff, may be considered.

Shoulder arthroscopy is a minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure that uses extremely tiny incisions to perform shoulder surgery in the majority of instances. Other concerns, such as arthritis or bone spurs, may be treated during the procedure to enhance overall function and movement in the shoulder joint. After the operation, you'll need to go through physical therapy to regain strength and movement in your shoulder. It might take up to a year to fully recover.

Swimmer’s shoulder prevention tips

Use proper technique of catching and pulling: When your hand reaches the water, use your leading arm's third or fourth finger to "catch" the water. It's critical that the thumb doesn't go in first, since this might cause the shoulder to internally spin. As your right arm enters the water, move your body slightly to the right when executing body rotations.

Strengthening and conditioning: To safeguard your shoulder, do strengthening exercises. When your shoulder joint begins to feel overworked and fatigued, it's also a good idea to take a break.

Stretching with care: Simply warm up your upper extremities for 5 to 10 minutes.


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