Your rotator cuff is made up of muscles and tendons in your shoulder. These muscles and tendons allow your shoulder to have a wider range of motion and provide support. Swimming is a good aerobic activity but can cause a rotator cuff injury, such as a swimmer's shoulder, because it involves repetitive movements and continuous use of shoulder muscles. Although swimming can be hard work for the shoulders, there are ways to avoid injury.
Swimmer's shoulder is a shoulder injury that may involve the rotator cuff muscles. Approximately 65 percent of competitive swimmers suffer from a shoulder injury at some point, according to "Cleveland Clinic." Keep in mind that a competitive swimmer can swim between six and eight miles per day and can make up to one million strokes per year. This repeated use and constant rotation of the shoulder contributes to causing this injury. If you have a chronic injury that involves the rotator cuff, the muscles may tear or inflame.
Symptoms and treatment
Swimmer shoulder symptoms depend on which muscles are involved. In a typical injury, the pain may worsen at night and may affect sleep, your ability to swim and the rotation of the shoulder and arm. A tear of the rotator cuff involves swelling and pain and needs to be examined by a doctor. Treatment may include resting the affected shoulder or doing therapeutic exercise. Medications can also be used to help reduce pain. If you have a torn rotator cuff, surgery may be needed in severe cases.
It is important to stretch between five and 10 minutes and warm up before swimming. It is equally important to strengthen the muscles you will use to swim. Pay attention to your body and learn the difference between normal muscle pain and the early signs of an injury, such as decreased range of motion, weakness and pain. If you swim with shoulder pain, you can make the injury worse and make it harder to diagnose. Consult a doctor if you have the symptoms of an injury.
Two stretches for swimmers
"Cleveland Clinic" indicates that stretching exercises are important to avoid shoulder injuries. If stretching exercises cause pain or feelings of weakness, stop, because you may already have an injury.
Extend the muscles of your shoulder by lying flat on your back and holding weights of 1 to 5 pounds in each hand. Stretch your arms towards the ceiling, keeping your back on the floor and your elbows straight. Slowly lower your hands to your sides.
Performs an active and resistant internal rotation exercise. Lie on your back and grab an elastic band that is attached to something stable at one end, with your elbow bent at a 90 degree angle and your forearm resting on the ground and pointing away from your body. The elastic band should have a little tension. Keep your elbow by your side, take your hand holding the elastic band through your body in a semicircle, so that your forearm rests on your torso. Repeat this exercise using each arm.