Why You Shouldn’t Shrug Off Swimmer’s Shoulder


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By Dr. G. John Mullen, Swimming World Contributor
Swimmer’s Shoulder is all too common on the pool deck. Many shrug it off (pun intended), saying shoulder pain is normal or it is simply shoulder soreness. Unfortunately, pain is pain, which reduces strength and enjoyment within the sport of swimming. Unfortunately, many activities during the day, in and out of the pool, result in muscular compensations which overuse specific muscles.
The upper trapezius is often overactive, creating pain, discomfort, and/or soreness in swimmers with shoulder pain. While doing thousands of overhead motions in the pool, the upper trapezius becomes overactive. Combine this overactivity with poor sitting posture, phone use, and improper dryland technique and you’ve got one well-cooked piece of meat!
Even while sitting, many people raise their shoulders to their ears during stressful periods. While you raise your shoulders towards your ears, you are reducing the space of the rotator cuff tendons to slide under the acromion. This increases risk for primary or external impingement.
Jenni Brozena and I discuss this in detail in the Advanced Swimming Podcast, specifically addressing why Swimmer’s Shoulder is on the rise. During this discussion we break down the pathomechanics of the shoulder in many swimmers.

Luckily, there are tricks for improving an overactive upper trapezius muscle. Using a baseball, lacrosse ball, tennis ball, or heavy bar can provide relief on this overactive muscle. Check out how to fix your upper trapezius muscle with this video. Just remember, simply making the shoulder feel better won’t be a long-term fix! Working with a skilled physical therapist for improving your muscular imbalances and correcting your faulty movements (in and out of the water) is key for long-term success!

*All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

*All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.

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