PT eDigest

SwimSwimDive Back in After Swimmer’s Shoulder

Are you an avid swimmer now sidelined by swimmer’s shoulder? You have plenty of company. Swimmer’s shoulder can develop from overuse, a change in your stroke or an increase in the intensity or duration of your swimming activity.

Swimmers tend to have above-average flexibility and range of motion in the shoulder—that’s great for swimming. But that extra flexibility and range of motion can predispose your shoulder to laxity and injury.

The most common swimmer’s shoulder complaint is tendinitis of the rotator cuff, the four muscles that help stabilize and move the shoulder. Injury to any of the muscles or their tendons can cause pain and limit range of motion.

Rotator cuff pain is usually felt deep within the shoulder. If there is also a popping sound or the swimmer experiences a “catch” in the joint, a ligament or joint lip (labrum) may be torn. An evaluation by a physician is necessary to determine the extent of the injury and the best course of treatment.

Resting the shoulder is important, so you should stop or significantly reduce swimming during treatment.Anti-inflammatory medications (if your physician approves) and ice packs applied to the injured area can minimize the pain.

A well-designed rehabilitation program, usually a supervised exercise regimen using light weights, will gradually strengthen your rotator cuff. Working with us, you will modify everyday activities to reduce stress on the shoulder joint. Other therapies, such as ultrasound or electrical stimulation, may be used as needed to reduce pain and inflammation. We will also help you return to the pool sooner by using proper stroking technique.

If pain persists after about six months of therapy, surgery may be recommended. However, most cases of swimmer’s shoulder can be resolved with rest and an individualized physical therapy program.