Shoulder pain while swimming?

Shoulder pain while swimming?

Swimming is one of the best cardiovascular exercises.  During summer, swimming is also a way to stay cool and maintain your figure.  Regular swimming sometimes causes different types of pain.  Shoulder pain, popularly known as swimmer’s shoulder, is one of them. Since swimming requires repetitive motion, it sometimes stresses the muscles and ligaments that support the shoulder. Tendons and shoulder are at risk of being strained once the muscles in the shoulders become exhausted.

What Is A Swimmer’s Shoulder?

Swimmer’s shoulder is a lay diagnosis for any type of shoulder pain related to swimming. The pain is usually felt with swimming often in one particular stroke phase and after swimming. It can also occur with any other activity that involves putting the arm above the head. The pain will often improve if the athlete discontinues swimming for a time, but will usually return once they start to swim again.

Swimmer’s shoulder is usually classified as an “over-use” injury. This happens because water resists motion more than air and anything affecting the normal mechanics of the shoulder during swimming really magnifies stress on the rotator cuff muscles. In general, any sort of technical flaw makes you less streamlined through the water, requiring more muscular effort to swim.

Shoulder Pain While Swimming?

Poor swimming technique is a major contributor to shoulder pain. If a swimmer crosses mid-line upon hand-entry, this may cause impingement of the long head of the biceps tendon. If a swimmer’s hand enters the water with the thumb pointing down and the palm facing outwards, this can result in the same type of impingement. By addressing proper entry, this condition may be avoided.


The single biggest factor in preventing shoulder injuries is proper swimming technique. Swimming is the most technique-dependent discipline and even with experienced swimmers, it is not uncommon to have technical problems with their strokes. When the anterior shoulder muscles are overly tight vs. weak posterior muscles, problems can arise even with a perfect swim stroke. Therefore, preventative shoulder-specific resistance training and stretching are helpful.

Examples of strengthening exercises for the posterior shoulder muscles include pull-ups, seated rows and external rotator work. Strength training of the chest and internal rotators is good for performance since these muscles help pull the arm through the water. Swimmer’s shoulder is largely preventable. When it does occur, it generally responds well to treatment. If you start to develop shoulder pain while swimming, don’t wait too long before talking to your therapist.

Treating swimmer’s shoulder involves the following:
1. Acute care measures to help reduce inflammation. This typically involves icing the shoulder after aggravating activities and some reduction of training, depending on the condition.
2. Appropriate hands-on work. There are usually four different aspects of bodywork with a swimmer’s shoulder.
a. Correct any associated joint issues, if present.
b. Localize and treat which rotator cuff muscles are being impinged.
c. Release any tight shoulder muscles.
d. Strengthen any weak shoulder muscles.
3. Identifying and healing the tight and weak shoulder muscles would include addressing any swimming technique issues, postural problems, or other contributing life-style factors.
4. Contributing life-style factors.

A visit to a physical therapist may also be necessary to help determine the cause of the problem. We can help develop a strategy to prevent this type of problem from reoccurring.

Contact us today, and we will be more than glad to assist and serve you.