Written by Brian Hartz, DPT, MPT, OCS, CSCS
As a former Division I swimmer and a Physical Therapist, I understand how shoulder pain can affect your performance in the water. My suggestions for preventing this common pain in swimmers are as follows:
1. Warm Up/Cool Down: This seems like a no-brainer, yet too many athletes do not do it on a regular basis! Cooling down doesn’t mean a cool shower right after plowing through a 5,000 yard practice. Instead, it should include (at least) five minutes of slow laps, and also, some general stretching exercises, which will help sore muscles recover quicker.
2. Better Posture: If your mother has ever told you to “Stop Slouching,” listen to her! The truth is, poor posture during daily activity increases everyday stress on the muscles of the rotator cuff, which are essential in competitive swimming.
3. Mechanics: Stroke mechanics are imperative. For example, always avoid crossing midline during freestyle hand entry. A stroke analysis, given by a qualified professional or coach will help swimmers avoid common mistakes and educate them about proper stroke techniques so they can stay healthy!
4. Strengthening: Although swimmers don’t always like to pack on the muscle, adding a weight-training regimen to your routine will pay off with faster times. Specifically, focus on the rotator cuff and shoulder blade muscles.
5. Listen to your Body: This is the most important tip! Swimmers are known for trying to push through the pain. This is fine and dandy….until it gets worse! If you have shoulder pain for more than a few days, we recommend decreasing your yardage and icing after practice. If your symptoms become persistent, consult a physical therapist who specializes in treating competitive swimmers. Take it from someone who has been there…getting help early on is your best bet!
If you are feeling pain when swimming, consider consulting a physical therapist first. With Direct Access at HARTZ PT, you don’t need a physician’s referral. Save time, money and get the answers you need to get healthy. At HARTZ PT we utilize our water current therapy pool to rehabilitate repetitive shoulder injuries faster and we also offer stroke analysis for competitive swimmers and triathletes.
For a free guide to 6 simple shoulder strengthening exercises which will help prevent injury (and can be done at home), or questions about having a stroke analysis send an email with the subject: SWIMMING to firstname.lastname@example.org.