Shoulder Pain When Swimming? | How To Avoid Swimmers Shoulder

Shoulder Pain When Swimming? | How To Avoid Swimmers Shoulder

– Your shoulders do a lot
of the work in swimming. You have a huge range of
movement at the shoulder and it’s quite a significant
force, repetitively, for every stroke of front crawl. Therefore it’s no surprise that problems in the shoulder area, are the most common injuries for swimmers. Well, we’re gonna be covering the cause of swimmers shoulders, and more importantly
looking at how to solve it and ultimately how to prevent it. Swimmers shoulder is one of
those broader used terms, a little bit like runners knee, it’s basically pain in the shoulder area that results from swimming. Now admittedly, we don’t do anywhere near as many miles in the pool as swimmers do, but as triathletes we still need to look after our shoulders. Now, I’m gonna take a look at the anatomy, but I’m gonna try and not
get too sciency for you, ’cause there are actually
several joints at the shoulder which allows it to have movements in all of the directional planes, and as a result you do need
to have all of the muscles, and the tendons around there, coordinating and working together, to make sure you don’t get any problems. (slow upbeat music) When people talk about the shoulder joint, they’re often referring
to the glenohumeral joint, this joint here, now it’s
a ball and socket joint, a little bit like the hip, but it is much shallower, which basically allows for a
lot more range of movement, but with that range of movement, comes a need for more control. So you’ve got a lot of muscles and tendons around this joint. Problem being, these tendons run through this small gap here, and now, if they do start to
get inflamed they can pinch and then once they start pinching
it becomes more inflamed, and it can become a vicious circle. But there are several
reasons for shoulder pain, not purely at this joint, but at all the other joints as well. So we can be focusing more
on what causes the pain in the first place, and then looking at how
to prevent that pain. Let’s start with the most obvious cause, poor swimming technique. So when it comes to the recovery phase, if you’ll bring your elbow
too close to your ear as it comes through your
gonna be naturally pinching your shoulder in the tendon areas here, so try to make sure you’ve got a relaxed, slightly wider recovery as you come over. Then it comes to the entry, make sure that once your hand is in, you’re not trying to pull
straight down, fully extended, ’cause your shoulder is not
really designed to do that, and it is not strong in that position. The same goes for, if you make
your hand to far out wide, or your thumb is pointing down, all of this will put your shoulder under unnecessary strain. So really concentrate on technique. And then the muscles around
this part of your shoulder are relatively small, so they’re
not gonna be that strong, so you want to make sure you are engaging those larger muscles to help propel you forwards, such as, the latissimus
dorsi, aka, the lats. You’ve probably heard of it, it is the muscle power heads, so you need to be engaging
that one and using that, but more on that one later on. Before we move onto
the strengthening part, we need to talk about
posture and activation, the less sexy parts of
strength and conditioning, but equally if not more important. So if you imagine you
spend a lot of the time hunched over, sat at your
desk, or out on your TT bike, your gonna be in that
thoracic curve for your spine, and that’s automatically gonna cause this part of your joint,
your glenohumeral joint, to be just internally rotated, and already putting it under more pressure and it can cause pinching
at the front of the capsule. And then if you go from this position to expect to be able to swim, well you’re already putting
yourself at a disadvantage. And if you are in a curved position, you’re gonna have to extend
even more from the shoulder to get a full reach when it
comes to the front crawl stroke. (slow upbeat music) Let’s start by mobilizing
the thoracic spine. You’ll see the foam will
work for these two exercises. The first one, if you lie on your back and you put the foam roller
underneath your thoracic spine, so the middle part of your back, and you’re just gonna roll
yourself up and down it, trying to increase that
extension through your back. You might feel a few clicks, but there’s nothing wrong with that. And then once you feel
that’s nice and loosened off, turn over onto all fours, put the foam roll a
length ways underneath you and then having your weight in your knees and one of your hands,
take your other hand and just rest it on top of the foam roller as you rotate underneath,
through to the other side, and this will really help with rotation of the thoracic spine. Make sure you do it in both directions. And then any other exercises
that just help to mobilize that middle part of your
spine will be doing it good. Another joint of the shoulder
area we need to address is the scapula thoracic. Now
you have to ignore the fact that Jerry has lost his arm here, and his scapula doesn’t actually move, but the joint we’re talking about, is where your scapula,
your shoulder blade here, moves over your ribs. Now this should glide nicely. If the movement isn’t
happening very well here, it’s gonna put more pressure
on the rotator cuff muscles and those at the front
of your shoulder joint so we need to activate
these muscles around here. For that, you need to lie
face down on the ground, with your shoulders in the goal, or your arms in a goal post position. And then, just lifting your
arms slightly off the ground, as well as your head, just
keeping your head in mutual. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, hold them as close as you can, imagine you’re trying to hole something between these two shoulder blades, hold that for five seconds, and then release your arms down, and repeat that five times. You can then progress to
using a band in front of you. So attach it to something
that’s shoulder height, in standing, and then holding on, and your going to basically
let your arms get pulled in by the elastic bands, then your gonna pull your
shoulders blades back, so you’re gonna be
pulling against that band but keeping your arms straight, so you’re really activating those muscles around your shoulder blades. And then another
progression is face pulls, so stand on the band, and you’re gonna be lifting your arms up in front of you but the whole time think of pulling your
shoulder blades back and down. Chest openers are another one that will just help with
the retraction movement of your shoulder blades as well. I’ve mentioned the rotator
cuff group of muscles already. Now basically, they area group of muscles that allow this joint here to internally and then externally rotate, and it’s important that
they’re all firing properly so you’ve got smooth
movement at the shoulder. You might have previously
seen swimmers on pool deck doing hours of external
and internal rotation using a TheraBand, and these exercises aren’t a cure but they do help to
strengthen these muscles. Although it’s now thought
that it’s actually better to do something more
like an isometric hold. So, if you do go and stand next to a wall and you just push your arm out against it, trying to activate those muscles, and the same goes for internal rotation, when your really holding and
then pulling towards the wall, so just trying to really activate them, but without putting them
through too much strain. Swimmers are known for
having mobile shoulders as that helps with the
reach in the stroke, but having too much
mobility without strength is dangerous as I’ve touched on, so make sure you’ve done all
of your activation work first, then you can get a cord again and just get some more mobility
going through your arms. You can do some side stretches, even some over the head
extensions, will all help, or even just some arms swings it’ll help get the blood
flowing and everything loose. But once you have already
warmed up and relaxed, you can actually focus a little
bit more on some stretches or maybe after your
swimming session as well, but we have actually got a video, ’cause a more specific shoulder exercise, you can find that one in
the description below. Once your scapula and thoracic
region are moving smoothly and all of those smaller muscles
are activated and firing, it’s time to focus on those
larger muscles, the lats. And this is where the
cords come in handy again, you can set ’em up on pool
side, or wherever you are, and actually replicate the swimming stroke thinking of engaging those muscles. If your band isn’t very stretchy, you can actually break the
stroke down to the front part and then the final part. And now if you do actually
have access to a gym, and you want to work
specifically on the lats, you go and use the latissimus dorsi, or the lat pulldown machine, which, unsurprisingly,
focuses very much on the lats. If you don’t have that,
you can also use pull-ups. Now, whilst we’re talking about gym, incorporating strength and
conditioning your gym session, a couple of times a week, can actually dramatically
help your swimming strength if you make sure you
target the correct muscles. Correcting your swimming technique and activating the right muscles is vital, but it’s also important to make sure you build your swimming
mileage up gradually, just like you would for
running and cycling. And if you do incorporate
all of these exercises we’ve already talked about, you’ll give yourself
that best possible chance of staying injury free. Now as I’ve mentioned, the shoulder joint, or the set of joints around the shoulder, are very complex. You need to listen to your body, so once you get a little
bit of inflammation in some of these tendons, it can be very hard to
do any shoulder movement without aggravating it. Well hopefully I didn’t bombard you with too much science there and you’ve enjoyed this video. Give us a thumb up like and hit the subscribe button to make sure you get all of our videos. And if you do want to
see some more exercises for the shoulder, I’ve made
one on that for triathletes just down here, or if you want some tips from an actual qualified physio, there’s a video on that just down here.

37 Replies to “Shoulder Pain When Swimming? | How To Avoid Swimmers Shoulder”

  1. Thanks GTN. Went into IRONMAN NZ with an injured shoulder. Useful tips to add to my recovery. Thumbs up.

  2. Nice one Heather. Been struggling with a torn rotator cuff, and that advice to adjust technique to reduce strain is so obvious to me after you mention it. Such a simple tip may make a huge difference. Thanks.

  3. Thanks Heather, that's a good video, wish to see them about year ago. But in my opinion you should add at the end to go to physiotherapist if no improvement after 2 weeks of this exercises.

  4. Dear Heather,
    Your presentation and videos are great, but please breath every now and then while talking. You talk like you have a train to catch! Relax!
    keep up the good vids 🙂

  5. thanks Heather ! it looks exactly what has been preventing me to swim during the last year. Hope to go back to the pool after these exercises !

  6. You should slow down in your talking, so everyone can understand. I bet many people look puzzled when you speak with them.

  7. As a swim coach of 16 years (and of a couple triathletes including a Kona qualifier) I really appreciate this video! Some basic/simple/great tips for shoulder health! Well done 👏🏻

  8. Great advice. Three years ago I damaged my rotator cuff attempting to beat my 2km/40 minute swim record, after watching this im not surprised that i damaged myself; poor swimming technique, poor shoulder strength, no stretching/warm up. Im two months into a gym program, when i attain a base level of fitness again ill focus on shoulder and lat work outs. Thanks.

  9. Great video once again !!! 2 questions : 1) who is the ignorant who gives a dislike upon this videos so interesting. 2) Are you guys coming to any race here in Quebec, Canada any time soon ?

  10. I have both my shoulders surgically fixed post surgery – started to swim after 2 years and felt shoulder pain instantly. So went to the gym and did these:overhead press with elbows slightly inwards, lateral raise, internal/external rotation, bicep curl, chest press (last 2 seemed to help too) and little bit of lat exercise. Now I can swim normally without any issues – obviously won't try a competitive one.

  11. Another excellent video for pain relief trying showering using cold setting for 30 sec's or more if you can tolerate it

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