Shoulder Pain in Swimmers

Shoulder Pain in Swimmers

Shoulder pain is the most troublesome injury for swimmers. For the mid-aged swimmer often our work posture can become a main contributor for the common bursitis that can become a “pain” and really affect our enjoyment of swimming.

If your shoulder pain almost turns off when you back off your swimming there is a strong chance there is no real structural issue but more of a “Postural Bursitis”. We are talking here that pain that sometimes runs down the side of your upper arm, often difficult to lie on and obviously interruptive with your sleeping.

As a physiotherapist we can often find stiffness in the thoracic spine especially as mentioned aggravated by hours of stooping over ones work station a “creeping habit”.

This is often manifested, by doing the same swim stroke in the pool repeatedly.

The Combined Elevation Test is an excellent test for you to evaluate YOUR upper back flexibility.

Lying on your front with the arms extended out with the thumbs touching and the chin on the floor. The test requires the swimmer to lift only the arms and hold for 5 secs.   If the arms lie in the same line as the armpit to hip line or even more elevated, then “Excellent” flexibility. 

Anything short of this and you are potentially vulnerable to shoulder impingement due to the position of the scapula as it sits on a rounded -kyphotic thoracic spine.

My good mate Glen …….mmmm struggling a bit with this test! Note how he battles to even lift his arms off the floor.

Ideas for improvement.

  1. Correct sitting at work. Small towel rolled up and placed into the lumbar region.
  2. Lift screen height so ear - eye line is level
  3. Lean back over chair hourly and squeeze blades together and hold 10 secs.  Repeat (x3).
  4. Lie back over a fit ball. A great warm up prior to gym or swim work outs 5 mins (invent your own stretch’s)
  5. Try some kick work on the back with fins with hands over the top at the end of training (200M) as a balance to your swim training.