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Swimmer’s Shoulder: What it is and how to avoid it.

Swimmer’s Shoulder: What it is and how to avoid it.

The heat of summer can make it difficult to get motivated for cardio workouts like running or even walking. Swimming can be a great substitute and provides a full body workout. But if the pool is your gym, you’ll want to be sure your shoulders are ready for the workout.

Pain or injury from repetitive use like swimming can lead to strains and sprains of one or more of the muscles that make up the shoulder joint. And the more you use your shoulder, the worse these strains can become. In fact, shoulder pain among swimmers is so common, there’s even a condition called swimmer’s shoulder.

What is swimmer’s shoulder?
Most doctors refer to this condition as shoulder impingement. It happens when the tendons in the shoulder joint become inflamed (called tendonitis) and press on nearby bones or muscles, causing pain. Freestyle stroke is most often listed as the cause of swimmer’s shoulder.

Other common swimming injuries
Neck and shoulder injuries are among the most common injuries that swimmers face, and they are most often these:
● Irritation and inflammation in the shoulders
● Rotator cuff tendonitis or tears
● Shoulder impingement syndrome, which is a result of pressure on the rotator cuff muscles from part of the shoulder blade when the arm is lifted overhead
● Tears in the cartilage around the shoulder socket
Shoulder injuries among swimmers are frequently caused by overtraining, lack of rest periods, poor stroke mechanics, poor breathing technique, poor flexibility, or range of motion. Decreased rotator cuff or shoulder blade (scapular muscle) strength and poor core strength or stability can also be contributing factors.
Avoiding Swimming Injuries
If you’ve swimming regularly, the best way to prevent injuries is to warm up properly before every session in the pool. You may also want to add additional strength and conditioning training to your workout, focusing on improving shoulder stability, as well as your thighs, hips and core muscles.
You should also consider gradually increasing the intensity and length of your swims to avoid overtraining. Allow the body proper rest periods between training sessions and consider working with a coach to improve your stroke techniques to minimize your injury risks.
Below we’ve outlined the swim stroke techniques for each stroke to help prevent common swimming injuries.
What to look for
If you’ve been overexerting your shoulder joint with repetitive movements from swimming, you may begin to notice persistent pain, along with other potential symptoms including:
● Numbness
● Tingling
● Burning
● Weakness
● Loss of dexterity

Over time, these symptoms can worsen and may require treatment to prevent permanent damage to your shoulder and the need for surgery.

What to do after an injury

The most important first step if you think you’ve injured your shoulder is to see a medical professional, preferably a shoulder specialist. Because the shoulder is such a complex combination of bones, tendons, and muscle, it’s important to seek advice from someone who can help work toward a speedy and full recovery. Dr. Stacy Tapscott of DOC Orthopaedics in Decatur, Alabama, is just such a specialist.

Dr. Tapscott is board certified in orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine. He has completed a shoulder surgery and reconstruction fellowship at The University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio, where he trained under internationally renowned shoulder specialists Charles A. Rockwood, Jr., M.D. and Michael A. Wirth, M.D. who have advanced the field of shoulder replacement. He also completed a sports medicine fellowship with the Knoxville Orthopaedic Clinic, the team physicians for the University of Tennessee.

With this advanced training, Dr. Tapscott delivers state-of-the-art care for his patients as part of the team of specialists at DOC Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine and also serves as team physician for several area high schools and Calhoun Community College.

Since 1972, DOC Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine has been committed to providing exceptional orthopaedic care through innovative techniques, quality services, patient communication, and education. With specialties ranging from general orthopaedics and physical therapy to sports medicine, joint replacement, and more, the doctors at DOC Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine can provide local expert care for any orthopaedic disorder or injury and help put your life back in motion.

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