What Is Swimmer’s Shoulder?
Swimmer’s shoulder is the colloquial term for a form of shoulder tendonitis, also sometimes referred to as shoulder impingement. Swimmer’s shoulder occurs when the tendons in the shoulder become inflamed and swollen. This inflammation causes the tendons to press on the surrounding bones, muscles, and tendons. Typically, this inflammation affects the rotator cuff which can apply pressure to the top of the shoulder blade bone. Continued pressure can cause friction which can lead to bone spurs developing on the shoulder blade.
What Are The Symptoms And Causes Of Swimmer’s Shoulder?
Swimmer’s shoulder, or shoulder impingement, is commonly caused by overuse of the shoulder. Frequent and repetitive arching motions, like those used in swimming, can lead to swimmer’s shoulder. Additionally, improper form can also be a cause of shoulder impingement. If you have previously suffered from a shoulder injury it can be easier to overuse the shoulder leading to shoulder impingement.
People suffering from swimmer’s shoulder often delay treatment because they confuse their symptoms with general soreness and overuse. If you’re experiencing shoulder soreness or pain, look for the following symptoms as well to make sure that you’re not suffering from shoulder impingement, as delayed treatment can cause more damage to the shoulder.
- Swelling or tenderness in the shoulder
- Limited range of motion
- Shoulder pain especially when reaching overhead or behind the back
- Weakness or instability in the shoulder
If you’ve read through these symptoms and are confused because you experience them but you’re not a swimmer or even an athlete, don’t worry! Swimmer’s shoulder is the informal term for shoulder tendonitis. Anyone that overuses their shoulder can suffer from this condition including baseball players, tennis players, and construction workers. If you’re experiencing these symptoms you should consult with a physician as soon as possible.
How Can Swimmer’s Shoulder Be Prevented?
If your sport, job, or hobby require you to do a repetitive shoulder motion or you’ve suffered from a previous shoulder injury and are worried about developing swimmer’s shoulder, these are some ways to reduce your risk:
- Stretch and warm up before swimming or participating in any sports, especially overhead sports. If you’re at risk for a shoulder injury at work, incorporate daily stretches into your morning routine.
- Prioritize rest and listen to your body. If you start to feel shoulder pain or your joint feels overused, it’s important to rest. If you’re an athlete, amateur or professional, it’s important to build rest into your schedule. Rest is a great way to prevent the overuse that leads to shoulder impingement.
- Utilize proper form when exercising or performing manual labor. Improper form can lead to swimmer’s shoulder or other shoulder injuries.
- Avoid repeated stress on the shoulder where possible. This is likely the most difficult preventative measure due to the circumstances that put someone at a higher risk for swimmer’s shoulder. Utilize this preventative measure when possible but make an effort to incorporate the above measures.
Is Swimmer’s Shoulder Curable?
The short answer is yes! With the correct treatment plan you can make a full recovery and get back into the water. However, there is no instant cure for shoulder impingement. Whether your recovery regimen includes rest, physical therapy, massage, steroid injections, or surgery, the healing process will typically take a few months. Average cases of swimmer’s shoulder will take around three to six months to heal with the more severe cases taking up to a year.
How Do You Rehab A Swimmer’s Shoulder?
There are a few different rehabilitation plans that your doctor may recommend to treat your swimmer’s shoulder. Surgery is an option but it is typically a last resort. Before that, your doctor will recommend conservative treatments including rest, ice, heat, and pain medication. Other treatments can include:
- Physical therapy: Working with a physical therapist or sports therapist can not only help rehabilitate your current injury, but they can help you work on injury prevention as well. Your physical therapy will guide you through a regimen of stretches, strength training, and stabilization exercises in order to strengthen your shoulder and help you heal.
- Lifestyle adjustments: Where possible, lifestyle adjustments may be implemented as part of your treatment plan. Making changes to your environment at home or work that would reduce repetitive shoulder motions can help heal your injury without the need for invasive measures.
- Steroid treatment: Steroid shots can help reduce inflammation in the shoulder joint. Steroid injections only provide temporary pain relief but can give you time to rest and heal.
- Massage treatment: A regular massage therapy regimen, in conjunction with your physical therapy, is beneficial in addressing the tight musculature of the body and to re-balance the structures of the shoulder.
Where Can I Receive Treatment For My Swimmer’s Shoulder?
At Advanced Kinetics Physical Therapy we offer physical therapy and injury prevention services that can help treat your swimmer’s shoulder or help you prevent it from developing in the first place. These services are available at our locations in Falls Church and McLean, Virginia. If you’re interested in learning more about how our physical therapy and injury prevention services can help you, please get in touch with us!