Summertime in the South can bring intense heat, breathtaking humidity, and blistering sun, all of which make it difficult to find a pleasant outdoor activity for regular exercise. Swimming is a rare exception when it comes to a surefire way to get some summery fun sans heat! It’s fun, it’s refreshing, it doesn’t require a lot of equipment, and you can do it anywhere there’s water: a local community pool, your favorite lake, even at the Gulf.
Swimming is a great cardio workout and exercises nearly every part of your body. But it can be particularly hard on your shoulders, one of the most complex joints in the human body. When you swim, you use your shoulders to propel your body forward against the resistance of water. Because you use the full range of shoulder motion when you swim, the effort can sometimes cause swimmer’s shoulder.
What is swimmer’s shoulder?
Swimmer’s shoulder, also called shoulder impingement, is caused by constant joint rotation from swimming. Because your shoulder joint is extremely mobile, it needs to be well supported by the ligaments and muscles surrounding it. Several things can cause you to overwork those ligaments and muscles when you swim, including:
● Poor technique
● Previous shoulder injury
● Use of too large hand paddles
Over time, these overworked ligaments and muscles can result in injuries such as:
● Rotator cuff tears
● Ligament and capsule damage
● Tendonitis and rotator cuff impingement
● Cartilage damage
How to recognize swimmer’s shoulder
If you swim regularly and experience shoulder pain, watch for these specific signs that may indicate swimmer’s shoulder:
● Reduced range of motion in one shoulder compared to the other
● Reduced joint stability
● Reduced strength
If you’re experiencing shoulder pain while swimming, you should consult with an orthopaedic expert like those at DOC Orthopaedic as soon as possible to avoid worsening the problem. Stop swimming and rest your shoulder to help reduce the inflammation.
How is swimmer’s shoulder treated
Once your physician has identified the involved tendons or muscles, as well as the severity or stage of the problem, he or she can move forward with the most efficient treatment, which may include:
● Icing after training
● Anti-inflammatory medications
● Rest, which might mean total rest with no swimming for about 24 to 48 hours depending on the severity
● Professional passive care. This might include things like:
○ Trigger point work
○ Cross-friction tendon massage
○ Adjustments to your neck or shoulder
○ Post-isometric relaxation of the muscles involved
○ Rehabilitation exercises to strengthen weak muscles
Whether you’re a swimmer in the most athletic sense of the word or just enjoy a few laps at the local pool, you may be susceptible to swimmer’s shoulder. If you have been experiencing shoulder pain from an ongoing problem or recent injury, your next step may be orthopaedic treatment that can provide long-term relief from painful symptoms. By working with a specialized practice like DOC Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Decatur and Hartselle, you can take advantage of the expertise of ten experienced providers, including Dr. Stacy Tapscott. A Morgan County native, Dr. Tapscott earned his medical degree at The University of Alabama at Birmingham, and completed his orthopaedic residency at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He also completed an additional fellowship in shoulder surgery and reconstruction at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio, where he trained under internationally renowned shoulder specialists Charles A. Rockwood, Jr., M.D. and Michael A. Wirth, M.D.
Dr. Tapscott’s love of sports led him to further pursue a sports medicine fellowship with the Knoxville Orthopaedic Clinic, team physicians for the University of Tennessee, before joining DOC Orthopaedics.
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.