Swimmer’s Shoulder | Symptoms, Causes & Prevention Tips

swimmer's shoulder

When it comes to swimmer’s shoulder, prevention is possible. Don’t wait until it’s too late! The majority of our healthcare tends to be on treating problems after the fact instead of preventing them in the first place. But, wouldn’t you rather never have to deal with an injury? Being proactive is less costly, painful, and time consuming. Even better, the strategies that can help prevent the condition from arising will also help you become a more efficient athlete.

What is Swimmer’s Shoulder?

Swimmer’s shoulder is an overuse injury that causes inflammation of the tendon and ligaments that surround the shoulder joint. It’s typically caused from repetitive shoulder motions, but other factors contribute as well.

At the first signs of swimmer’s shoulder, many athletes don’t even realize they could be dealing with a problem. Often times, athletes attribute the soreness in their shoulder as typical following a training session. But, if you don’t pay attention, things can quickly take a turn for the worst. As with many conditions, when swimmer’s shoulder is left unaddressed, it can lead to more serious issues such as a full rotator cuff tear.

The symptoms of swimmer’s shoulder can vary drastically. In some cases, it causes pain that’s localized. In others, it produces radiating pain. The pain can be sharp, vague, or simply cause a noticeable decrease in performance. Generally speaking, the symptoms include:

  • Tenderness
  • Decrease in strength
  • Joint laxity
  • Decreased mobility
  • Pain in the back or front of shoulder – usually felt deep within the joint
  • Pain that radiates to the neck or down the arm

While the degree of symptoms can vary person to person, it’s important to attack the issue head on and prevent any further damage.

swimmer's shoulder

What Causes Swimmer’s Shoulder?

Swimmer’s shoulder affects more than just swimmers. Other athletes that incorporate repetitive overhead motions, such as baseball players, are also susceptible.

Swimmer’s shoulder is typically caused by multiple factors.

1. Poor Technique

Training with improper body mechanics increases your chances of developing swimmer’s shoulder. Using improper mechanics outside of training, such as poor posture, can also contribute.

2. Overtraining

Doing more isn’t always better. When athletes train consistently and don’t allow their bodies to properly recover in between workouts, overuse injuries will often rear their ugly heads. Repetitive motions lead to microtears in muscles and ligaments, which can then lead to more significant damage when not taken care of. According to Heiden Ortho, “repetitive overhead activities, whether that’s from swimming or throwing a baseball, can lead to inflammation of the rotator cuff. This inflammation compresses the tendons and reduces blood flow to the rotator cuff.”

3. Unsupported Joints

When your shoulder isn’t supported by strong muscles and ligaments, it becomes loose, making the joint unstable and open for injury.

How to Prevent Swimmer’s Shoulder

If you think you might be prone to developing swimmer’s shoulder, now is the time to start being proactive. Don’t let injuries sideline you when there’s steps you can take to keep your body healthy.

1. Active Recovery

Overtraining occurs when you don’t add proper recovery into the mix. Workouts break your body down. During the recovery phase, your body rebuilds and grows stronger. However, if you don’t give your body the recovery it needs, it will ultimately keep breaking down.

When it comes to enhancing the body’s natural recovery process, active recovery is a must. Of course, nutrition, hydration, and sleep are other important factors to ensure the recovery process is operating efficiently, but active recovery is a main factor. The body’s recovery process includes 4 main stages: bringing in nourishment, removing waste, production and release of myokines, and remodeling the repaired tissue. Muscle activation, aka active recovery, facilitates each of these stages.

swimmer's shoulder prevention

Active recovery involves low-stress muscle activation, such as going for a light jog or swim. It shouldn’t be strenuous, but it should get your muscles moving. Keep in mind, it’s important not to do too much and turn your active recovery into another workout. An alternative to traditional active recovery is Marc Pro, which makes recovery easy and effective. Marc Pro creates non-fatiguing muscle activation so you can achieve all the benefits of active recovery, without any of the limitations.

Activities like swimming and baseball can be a big commitment, so it’s hard to find extra time for active recovery. With Marc Pro, you can get the most effective recovery while doing activities you would be doing anyways, like work, school, traveling, or relaxing on the couch.

2. Stretch

Incorporating shoulder, chest, and neck stretches can help in the prevention of swimmer’s shoulder. When the muscles that surround the shoulder joint are tight, it can negatively affect your body’s mechanics. As discussed earlier, poor technique is a contributing factor to swimmer’s shoulder, so it’s important to take all the necessary steps to ensure your body is able to operate properly.

3. Strengthen

Shoulders joints are the most mobile joints in the body, but this also means they can be highly unstable. Having the right support is everything. The muscles and ligaments that surround the joint need to be strong and sturdy to prevent the shoulder from becoming too loose. Better conditioned muscles also allow for better blood flow so you can do more work before getting fatigued.

Not only does strengthening help with injury prevention, it also helps athletes perform for longer periods of time. The main areas to strengthen for swimmer’s shoulder prevention are the shoulder and upper back muscles. Active.com provides a few examples of exercises you can get started with. As with stretching, strengthening also improves biomechanics so your body can move with form that reduces the likelihood of injury and improves efficiency.

Want to learn more ways to use Marc Pro for improved recovery and injury prevention? The versatility and ease of use makes Marc Pro a great solution for athletes who want to keep doing what they love and perform at their best.

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