The most common injury for adult swimmers or triathletes is swimmer's shoulder. Swimmer's shoulder is essentially an overuse injury in the very mobile shoulder joint, the shoulder joint is stabilized by a small group of muscles and tendons called the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff's job is to keep the head of the humerus in the shoulder socket. With over use or incorrect use, we see fatigue in the rotator cuff which in turn causes pain. A quick google search can afford you all this information but what I hope this article is to give you things to try when you are starting to feel some pain.
- Make sure to rest the injury first and foremost, doing things to reduce the inflammation such as ice, rest and anti-inflammatories (if tolerated). Once the pain is starting to reduce we need to fix up the body.
- First step is always to look for muscle imbalances, range of motion issues and other shoulder mechanical problems. A physiotherapist who is familiar with swimming motions should be able to help identify the issue and develop a treatment plan.
- Keep in mind even with perfect technique swimming is chest dominated, pulling the shoulders forward and putting strain into the shoulder joint. Thus getting a stretching (chest), strengthening (rotator cuff and back) and range of motion routine even if you aren't injured is a good idea when you are starting a swim program.
- We are't registered trainers so we will leave the program to the experts.
- Second step is to make some technical changes to your stroke. Typical shoulder issues are thumb first entry, crossing over and flat rotation. One that seems to be applicable to most triathletes is a high extension position in the water, often I see limited range of motion of the shoulder and swimmers attempting to keep their hands near the surface. This causes all kinds of tension in the shoulder joint. Try lowering the hands in the extension position and encouraging the shoulders to roll, the rotation will help increase the extension depth. Send us some video and we can help you identify those problems.