Skip to main content
Telehealth Book Online (07) 4729 0055

How to Avoid Swimmers Shoulder

If you’ve recently taken up swimming and you’re wondering how to avoid swimmer’s shoulder, you’ve come to the right place.

Swimmer’s shoulder is a painful condition caused by repeated overhead rotation of the shoulder and arm. It’s a condition that can successfully be managed and even prevented with proper care and education. 

At NQ Physio Solutions, our physiotherapists focus treatment on healing injuries at the source and preparing patients for the specific requirements and demands of your chosen sport. Our team are passionate about injury prevention and offer customised treatment plans that allow our clients to reduce the risk of re-injury while maximising performance.

Based in Townsville, our team often consult with competitive athletes, including swimmers. As such, we’re well versed in preventing, avoiding, managing, and treating the common condition through holistic physiotherapy solutions. Within this article, we’re going to break down what swimmer’s shoulder is, how to avoid swimmer’s shoulder, and how to prevent the condition from occurring in the first place.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is Swimmer’s Shoulder?

Swimmer’s shoulder, also known as shoulder impingement syndrome, is a condition that develops from the rotator cuff repeatedly rubbing between the humeral head and the acromion of the shoulder blade. This rubbing leads to aggravation of some of the structure within the acromial space leading to symptoms such as swelling, pain, and stiffness in and around the shoulder joint.

Symptoms of swimmer’s shoulder usually develop over a period of weeks or months and include shoulder pain, a limited range of motion, muscle weakness, fatigue and sometimes instability of the shoulder joint.

Although colloquially termed a swimmer’s injury, shoulder impingement syndrome is common in other athletes who constantly perform overhead rotation motions like volleyballers, baseballers, and tennis players. In fact, shoulder impingement syndrome can even be an occupational hazard for professions requiring overhead work, like window cleaning and painting. 

How to Prevent Swimmer’s Shoulder?

If you’re wondering how to avoid swimmer’s shoulder, AKA Shoulder impingement syndrome, the best prevention is to reduce risk through planning ahead.

For example, if you are a keen swimmer, it’s important to limit other activities and tasks that require the same type of movement of your shoulders. This will thereby reduce the overall stress and load continuously going through the sub acromial space. You must also make sure to rest when your shoulder feels tired and religiously stretch before and after you exercise. Most importantly, invest some time learning about good stroke techniques to ensure you engage the correct muscles when you are swimming.

The health of your shoulders is a delicate balance between mobility and strength, so it’s also worth taking the time to strengthen your shoulder muscles outside of the pool to ensure that equilibrium is maintained.

How to Treat Swimmer’s Shoulder?

Treatment for swimmers’ shoulder can be effectively managed without the need for surgical intervention. There are several conservative treatment options available that are usually highly successful, including:

  1. Adjusting Technique

Modifying your training schedule and adjusting your swimming technique can hugely benefit your shoulder health. Ensure your body is high in the water when you swim, and your arm stroke is smooth and regular. If you don’t already have a coach, investing in some one-on-one sessions to perfect your stroke mechanics, kicking rhythm, and breathing patterns may well be worth the investment.

If your shoulder isn’t the result of swimming, modifying your home or office set-up to avoid excessive overhead reaching and rotation can have a similarly beneficial effect.

  1. Physiotherapy 

Physiotherapy is the most critical treatment step for swimmer’s shoulder injuries. A physiotherapist can provide immediate relief from pain with a range of physical therapy exercises, stretches and manual therapy. Your physio will also advise on the most suitable at-home stretches, strength training exercises, and stabilisation exercises to help the injury heal over time. Finally, a physiotherapist can also advise you on techniques to prevent re-injury and refer you for additional treatment if necessary.

  1. Steroid Injections 

Steroid injections can be beneficial for the short-term relief of inflammation and pain. The steroid solution is injected straight into the area of inflammation to provide immediate relief from symptoms.

Steroid injections do not address the underlying causes of swimmer’s shoulder. However, short-term pain relief can be beneficial to start the healing process and may be ordered by your doctor.

Swimmer’s Shoulder Rehab with NQ Physio Solutions

If a case of swimmer’s shoulder is left untreated, you may become more at risk of secondary injuries like rotator cuff tears, ligament damage, bursitis, tendonitis, and cartilage damage. Seeking professional care for any shoulder injury is imperative to maintain a full range of motion and prevent further injuries or permanent damage. 

Early intervention is the key to successfully treating sports injuries, and the team at NQ Physio aim to get you back on your feet as quickly as possible. Our team of physiotherapists will take the time to assess, diagnose, and formulate the best possible recovery plan for you. If you’d like to learn more about managing or how to avoid swimmers’ shoulder, contact us today to talk to one our expert physiotherapists at NQ Physio Solutions in Townsville.

Back to Blog