It is extremely common for swimmers to experience some problem with one or both of their shoulders at some point during their swimming career. Swimming miles in the pool each day and perfecting the same stroke can easily aggravate the shoulder joint causing wear and tear.
These overuse injuries are known as “swimmer’s shoulder” and often develop when athletes are unable to distinguish between typical soreness and the early symptoms of a more serious injury. Some things you should look for when determining if you have swimmer’s shoulder are a decreased range of motion, joint weakness and pain. If you choose to ignore the abnormal pain or weakness, you may decrease your chances for a quick and total recovery. Always confirm your suspicions of swimmer’s shoulder with a physician for a proper diagnosis before aggravating your injury by continuing exercise.
Once a physician has positively diagnosed you with swimmer’s shoulder, the primary treatment is rest. Be sure to stick with the recovery plan laid-out by your physician and don’t just return to competition just because you feel like you can. Preemptive returns can easily cause you to reinjure your shoulder.
In addition to rest, it’s important to focus on strengthening and conditioning your shoulder to fully heal and to prevent future injury. In swimmers, shoulder weakness can cause a scapulohumeral rhythm (a faulty stroke) to develop. This poor technique puts potentially harmful stress on the shoulder and biceps.
Reference: Cleveland Clinic; “Swimmers Shoulder”; 2013; http://my.clevelandclinic.org/orthopaedics-rheumatology/diseases-conditions/hic-shoulder-tendonitis.aspx