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"Swimmers Shoulder"

Hi Everyone! - SwimminTukker has been diagnosed with "swimmers shoulder" - inflammation of the rotator cuff muscles/ tendons (The key muscle group of the shoulder is the rotator cuff, made up of (from anterior to posterior) the subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor.) Have had pain in the front of my shoulder for some time now, especially after long sessions.

Think I know the causes, i.e. overuse, poor form (I'm too dominant on my left side), lack of "body roll" etc. Question: can anyone share experiennce and specifically any rehab or strenghtening exercises that I should build into my programmme??

Cheers everyone!


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    I used to do a lot of training and competitive swimming (3+hrs/day 6 days/wk) and this was really common in front crawl specialists. It is an overuse injury and unfortunately the best medicine is reduce usage. I would also suggest seeing a good sports physio and warming up properly before training (when you are better) - if you google swimming warm up there are some good rotator cuff stretches you can find instructions on.

    I used to get this problem all the time from overuse and from an old rugby shoulder dislocation injury but a bit of quality physio and a proper warm up seem to have worked wonders!

    Now if I could just do the same with my posterior tibialis injury I would be happy[:)]

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    TommiTriTommiTri Posts: 879
    Do you do yoga?

    I dislocated my shoulder last year, this not only caused the initial problem of a rotator cuff tear and a capsule lesion, but also caused the joint to become very stiff and inflexible.

    This caused a serious problem with my swimming as my already weak left side was even weaker, as my pull was very short, as I couldn't reach very far behind me, if you get what I mean!

    I also found after I had swam about 500m my shoulder would really start to ache, as it was being pushed a bit further than it wanted to. I attacked the problem in two ways.

    Firstly I increased my body roll, this helped so much as it meant I wasnt reaching back as much as I was only my side during the pull. I could now complete the full pull!

    But I still got a bit achey after 500m or so, although not as severe as before.

    So i took up yoga!

    I do 20mins a day, and my shoulder flexibility has improved remarkably and has now pretty much what it was before, and I dont get any aching anymore!

    I reckon if you take up yoga, and increase you shoulder flexibility, combined with an increase in body roll you may find this helps!

    Also yoga will help lots with your swimming in general, especially ankle flexibility - childs pose!
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    Thanks guys, you both have basically confirmed what I had already suspected. Will see the physio again next week for a round of ultrasound and acupunture and will suffer chlorine (week-days) and algae (week-ends) withdrawals for the time being. Re. yoga, I do tinker with that a bit, probably more so in the off season..
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    trispacetrispace Posts: 25
    A very simple method of strengthening the rotator cuff is to perform exercises with rubber tubing or a stretch band. Fasten the rubber tubing or band to a stable object like a heavy door or piece of furniture. Perform the following exercises for 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. The trunk must be kept stable throughout the exercise.

    Without copying the images from my sports injuries text book I've managed to locate good images explaining the exercises on the net. Only complete the rotator cuff exercises as there's a whole load of other exercise stuff there too.


    Your physio/sports therapist should be able to help demonstrate the exercises if necessary.

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    BopomofoBopomofo Posts: 980
    I've got this problem too. Went to the doctor and all he said was to rest it and take some Ibuprofen. I'd planned to have a few weeks off from moving the shoulder then start doing some weight work to strengthen it up.

    Must look at some of these rotator cuff stretching exercises, though.
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    djtvdjtv Posts: 28
    I damaged my Rotator Cuff last summer playing cricket which left me 6 months without swimming. After leaving it far too long I went through Physio to get it resolved before this season and the excercises I had planned for me have worked like a dream.

    The best piece of kit to aquire is a Theraband which can be taken anywhere and used daily to strenghten the Rotator Cuff. The excercises that Trispace linked to were the same ones I was given with the addition of a 45degree angle as well as the 90degree.

    I was also given seated shoulder press with dumbell sets to strengthen the whole shoulder.

    Seems to work well and I incorporate them into any gym session I do.

    Highly recommended.

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    ST, suffered with this myself due to overuse, but also lack of rotation on my non-breathing side. I am back swimming now, and I think my shoulder joint will always be weak, however, have managed to keep going by introducing as much bilateral swimming as I could into my training which really evens up your stroke and takes pressure of the weak shoulder. I also do a lot of drills to ensure I roll on both sides. A really good one my coach taught me is rather imaginatively called 'touch the bum'[:D], is where you touch the your bum cheek with the opposite thumb after you finish the pull phase and just after it exits the water (i.e. left thumb - right bum cheek). It really exagerates the roll. I do a 25m drill, slowly and bilaterally, then 25m bilateral swimming to emphasise the drill technique into the stroke. Finger drag and zips (or chicken wing) drills are also good for body roll.
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    Matt, What's the "chicken wing" drill? I'm going to try the "touch your bum" one - my roll is not what it should be, nor is my bi-lateral breathing. All issues that put pressure on my left (dominant) side. I'm fine as long as I am doing slow, focused drills but as soon as I get into longer sets, I fall back into bad habits...
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    I had this a couple of years ago - to the point where I couldn't sleep on one side of my body without pain and used to wake up in the middle of the night as a result. I know it's not any use medically (though hopefully it's good for morale), but my problem went after about 2 or 3 months. The biggest change that I made was to rest the shoulder and to increase my rotation when swimming, but I think that the primary reason for the swimmers shoulder was simply that I wasn't used to the amount of front crawl training that I was doing (it was shortly after I re-started swimming after several years in order to do triathlon). I now swim more intensively than I did at the time but, touch wood, have no problems. So, solutions are to rotate and to allow your body to adjust.

    Hope it helps - for morale if for nothing else


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    ST, (re-chicken wings or zips.) Imagine you have a zip running along each side of an imaginary wet suit. When your hand exits the water after the pull/push phase, place your thumb on your hip and run it slowly along the side of your body right up to your arm pit, and then let the hand/arm enter the water. When your thumb is at your arm-pit, it looks a bit like a chicken wing, hence the name. Its primarily used to emphasise a high elbow, but also forces you to roll if done properly.
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    niknakniknak Posts: 8
    I've had this problem for over a year now. The problem stemmed from not stroking properly and breathing on one side.

    What have i done to alleviate this problem? I've learnt to high elbow catch for one. This puts much less pressure on the

    shoulder joints as you push through the stroke rather pull your body along. The shoulder is designed better for pushing than

    pulling. I learnt to do this off 'you tube' watching the pros, and dave scott's stuff. Also through swimplan.com, good drills for

    getting the catch and, and recovery right, and pushing through the water. It's free too.

    I was also visiting the british school of osteopathy, they tried for about two the months. They managed to reduce the pain, but never get rid of it.

    Then i saw an osteopath in winchester. He was very gently, then he asked, 'did i mind acupuncture?' To which I replied 'try anything!'

    About two days later I could move that arm like I hadn't moved it for about 6 months. I was amazed!!!!

    I started playing some cricket this year and it made things bad again. Back on the osteo table. He works on it a little. However, it's maintenance depends on my stroke action. Bi-lateral breathing has made a massive difference, it helps keep my shoulder muscles balanced. I find the point of pain in the 'long head bicep tendon' which is what your all refering to, is when I extend my arm recovery of my stroke to just prior to the catch. My body is rotated and it squeezes the joint there. This happens if I don't 'extend to air properly' and try to catch too early. Also I find I must try and keep my arm in the plane if it's shoulder, and not moving toward the centre line, as is my natural inclination.

    However, like others have said it's also down to good stretching and keeping the muscle loose, and trying to stay relaxed in the water.

    I really hope this helps, I know the pain, I've had it both shoulders and it awful. But my does get better with treatment and care.

    Like the osteo, I can't just stick a pin in it and make it better everytime. You have to look after it.

    Good luck
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