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What Is Swimmer’s Shoulder?

Swimmer’s shoulder is an umbrella term that is used to describe a number of shoulder overuse injuries that commonly affect swimmers. Due to the repetitive overhead motion involved in many strokes, swimming can stress various parts of the highly mobile shoulder joint. Poor technique, excessive training or inherent weakness can also contribute to the resulting wear and tear on the shoulder.

What are the signs of swimmer’s shoulder?

Also known as impingement syndrome, swimmer’s shoulder results from chronic inflammation in the rotator cuff muscles and tendons, which surround and support the shoulder joint. This inflammation can produce various symptoms, including:

  • Tenderness in the affected part of the shoulder
  • Pain that radiates from the shoulder to the neck or down the arm
  • Pain that worsens when lying on the affected shoulder
  • Decreased range of motion in the shoulder
  • Reduced shoulder strength
  • Shoulder joint instability

How is swimmer’s shoulder treated?

Shoulder impingement syndrome is often treated conservatively with:

  • A short break from swimming
  • Temporary avoidance of overhead arm movements
  • Ice pack applications to reduce pain and swelling
  • A sling or tape to stabilize and support the shoulder joint
  • Physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the muscles that support the shoulder
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve painful inflammation

Before a patient resumes swimming, a physician or physical therapist may suggest making some improvements or modifications to his or her swimming strokes. Also, to help prevent further injuries, warm-up exercises can be performed beforehand to prepare the shoulder muscles for vigorous activity.

If swimmer’s shoulder does not improve within a few weeks, surgery may be considered. For instance, a surgeon may recommend a procedure to repair a damaged shoulder ligament or tendon.

If you have shoulder pain and you’re an avid swimmer, you may have swimmer’s shoulder. The orthopedic specialists at Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, Texas, can help you find meaningful relief using the most conservative approach that will be effective. To schedule an appointment at any of our state-of-the-art sports medicine clinics located throughout the Houston, TX, area, contact us today.