Swimming is an enjoyable way to exercise and is known for putting little pressure on the joints. However, because the muscles of the shoulders are used heavily in swimming to propel the body forward, there is the potential for shoulder strain. This condition even has its own name within the sport: “swimmer’s shoulder.”
According to a University of Iowa study, the most common swimming related injury for the swimming team was shoulder pain. There are many other studies that also show the prevalence of shoulder pain and injuries in swimmers.
The good news is there are some techniques you can use to avoid shoulder strain. Here are our top tips:
Use Correct Hand Placement Into the Water
Many swimmers can improve their hand placement into the water. Notice when you place your hand in the water if your thumb is entering the water first, meaning that you’re tilting your arm and shoulder inwards. If you are, it’s time to make an adjustment. Try to bring your hand down with the palm of your hand and fingers facing the bottom of the pool. This will help avoid excessive internal rotation, which over time can cause shoulder pain.
Poor posture, in the water and out, can negatively affect your shoulders. As you’re pulling your arms through the water, a curved, slouching back can cause strain on your shoulder. Rather, keep your shoulders back and your chest forward. Do this while you swim, and also try to keep this posture in mind when out of the pool. As an additional measure, you may consider sleeping on your back to reduce strain on your shoulders.
Strengthen Your Scapular Muscles
Your scapulae or shoulder blades play an important role in supporting your shoulders. By strengthening your scaps, you can avoid tiring your shoulders. How can you exercise your scaps? Use a standing row, or elastic band. Try to notice where you’re working your scaps as you pull the band towards your chest, you should feel a tightening right in your shoulder blades.
Strengthen Rotator Cuffs
Use a resistance band to strengthen your rotator cuffs and help prevent shoulder strain. You can also use hand weights to strengthen this part of your body. Lay on your side with your elbow at your side, and the weight on the floor. Grab the weight, moving your forearm over your stomach and pull it up towards the ceiling, keeping your elbow and upper arm touching your side. There are a variety of other exercises you can do to strengthen your rotator cuffs. Ask your coach or trainer for additional support in this area.
Keep in mind that these preventative tips are different than what’s recommended if you have an actual injury. If you’ve already strained your shoulder, you’ll need to seek the advice of a physiotherapist who will be able to advise you on the proper care. Once you’re healed, you can follow these techniques for preventing future injuries.
Looking for a great place to swim? Check out Blue Buoy Swim School. We have classes for adults and children alike. Give us a call at 714.710.7911 for more information.