Do I have swimmers shoulder? How to diagnose your shoulder injury

Swimmers shoulder is inflammation in the tendons of the muscles you use to swim.

These muscles become inflamed from repetitive strokes, whether that be in the pool or the ocean.

The more powerful pulling muscles cause an imbalance with the straightening technique muscles and this imbalance can cause the tendons to become inflamed from pinching against the bone surface.

Swimmers shoulder symptoms

There are two different types of swimmers shoulder, and determining which type is very important as it will guide your treatment and rehab.

  • Type 1– is pain on the pull-through phase, when the hand is in the water.
  • Type 2– is pain on the recovery phase, when the hand is out of the water.

The most common reasons why swimmers shoulder occurs is poor technique and fatigue.

Poor technique leads to using the wrong muscles to swim.

What happens is that the larger, more powerful muscles cause the smaller rotator cuff muscles to fatigue quicker as they have been working harder to stabilise the shoulder.

When a muscle fatigues it is at a greater risk of injury, and as the swimmer continues to train with fatigue they cause further damage and inflammation.

Using large hand paddles in the pool or too much resistance causes poor technique and requires muscles around the shoulder to work harder. Again this causes increased fatigue leading to damage and inflammation.

Overtraining causes shoulder muscles to fatigue. Quite often, the tired athlete takes more strokes to complete a lap or an effort, due to a loss of efficiency. This increase in number of strokes causes technique to suffer increasing damage and inflammation.

The most important thing to note about technique is that everyone can swim efficiently with good technique when you are thinking about it, rested and fresh. It’s what your technique is like when you are under pressure training and racing that makes a difference as to whether you will get swimmers shoulder.

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