How Can Swimmer’s Shoulder Be Cured With Physical Therapy?

How Can Swimmer’s Shoulder Be Cured With Physical Therapy?


Swimmer’s Shoulder represents a chronic irritation of the shoulder’s soft tissues. Soft tissues consist of tendons, muscles and ligaments. Swimmer’s Shoulder is a general term used to describe an overuse shoulder injury that usually occurs in swimmers. This is also known as impingement syndrome. Being an overuse injury, it is caused by repeated trauma rather than a specific incident.

The muscles that have the most effect on your joint stability are called the rotator cuffs. The ‘cuff’ is made up of four muscles which work together to help keep your shoulder centred in the socket. This makes your shoulder a very mobile joint, and being so mobile, it needs to be well controlled by the muscles and ligaments that surround the joint.

What Happens in Swimmer’s Shoulder?
Over-training, fatigue, hypermobility, poor stroke technique, weakness, tightness, previous shoulder injury because of use of hand paddles can lead to your muscles and ligaments being overworked. You may experience injuries such as rotator cuff impingement and tendonitis, rotator cuff tears, bursitis, capsule and ligament damage, or cartilage damage if this goes on.

What Are the Symptoms of Swimmer’s Shoulder?
The symptoms may vary with the cause. Usually the pain is worse in backstrokes, and least during breaststroke. Pain may occur at phase of freestyle, and, depending on when it occurs, the diagnosis will be different. Sleeping on the involved side aggravates the pain. The swimmer will experience shoulder pain even while not swimming, when the problem is fairly advanced. The shoulder becomes progressively more tender to the touch.

How Can Swimmer’s Shoulder be Diagnosed?
Your physiotherapist will run tests on the structures of the shoulder to determine what part of the shoulder is causing you pain. He will try to understand what caused your shoulder to become painful in the first place and he’ll treat it accordingly. In order to get the best treatment, it is essential to get the correct diagnosis.

How Can Physiotherapy Cure Swimmer’s Shoulder?
The first aim of physical therapy is to relieve the patient from aggravating pain and that involves resting the shoulder. A physiotherapist can help modify shoulder activities to help avoid re-aggravation of the rotator cuff. Regular icing and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications should also be instituted until the athlete is pain free.

To restore normal strength in the rotator cuff is the second goal of physical therapy. With a supervised exercise program, regaining strength can be accomplished of the rotator cuff using relatively low weights of 2-3 lb, maximum up to 5 lb going through high repetitions (12 -20 reps per set). These exercises should be performed everyday or every other day.

Working with a physiotherapist for Swimmer’s Shoulder can be very helpful, particularly one with expertise in treating shoulder injuries. Such a physiotherapist can help the athlete perform dry land exercises to swimming exercises. Athletes may have to undergo a surgical intervention if their shoulder pain persists for over 6 months despite guided rest and rehabilitation.