What Swimmers Should Know About Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder impingement syndrome, also known as “swimmer’s shoulder,” is a type of rotator cuff disorder that causes pain and disability most commonly to swimmers. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, swimmer’s shoulder incidence occurs among 70% of swimmers, but it is more prevalent among the 35% who undergo hardcore training.

Of all the joints in the body, it is the shoulders with the most flexible range of motion. However, it’s also more prone to injuries even if the rotator cuff does not bear weight. The rotator cuff is composed of a muscle group that controls the smooth and flexible movement of the shoulders. This muscle group also stabilizes the ball within the socket of the shoulder joints while supported by the bursa sac. 

Symptoms and Causes of Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Typically, shoulder impingement syndrome manifests pain that makes swimmers unable to use the full range of their shoulders. The swimmers may also experience difficulty raising their arms overhead, or struggle to reach behind their back, and generally feel shoulder weakness.

Pain from shoulder impingement syndrome increases as the swimmers spend more time in the water. This is because of the repetitive motion that swimmers have to do during training and competitions.

If the pain and reduced mobility have been happening for some time, shoulder impingement syndrome can develop as a rotator cuff tear that can significantly bring more pain and weakness. The condition may also lead to the rupture of the muscles around the biceps. 

Shoulder impingement syndrome happens because of many factors, including:

  • Overtraining or swimming when the muscles are overworked and fatigued
  • Overreaching a stroke or movement
  • Performing improper swimming techniques 
  • Poor muscle strength training
  • Wear and tear of the shoulder joints
  • Repetitive motions, especially when reaching the arms overhead
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Treatment and Prevention of Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Doctors in orthopedics, Palm Beach County advise that swimmers experiencing shoulder pain must not delay a visit to a doctor for the proper diagnosis and treatment. The doctors will most likely recommend giving swimming and some movements a rest until the muscles have had a chance to heal, along with ice pack treatments and massages.

An oral anti-inflammatory medication might be prescribed to manage shoulder pain, along with physical therapy for the rehabilitation exercises. Depending on the severity of the condition, this treatment plan could last for a minimum of 6-8 weeks.

Other non-invasive treatment alternatives for swimmers shoulder include:

  • Steroid injections, especially for immense pain. At least three injection sessions spaced out within a period of 12 months can reduce the pain and discomfort of the swimmer’s shoulders.
  • Acupuncture. Following 18 weeks of consistent and regular sessions of motion-style acupuncture (MSAT), patients in a study in the Journal of Pain Research experienced significant improvement in shoulder function and pain reduction.

It’s important to complete a treatment program to regain the shoulder’s full function, otherwise the problem could return in a state worse than before, which might only be corrected with surgery. 

Eventually, the swimmers will also have to modify their training to prevent further shoulder impingement. They need to work with a coach who can keep their movements, posture, and techniques in check. 

Learn more about Orthopedics in Palm Beach County

Orthopaedic Surgery Associates has helped many orthopedic patients improve their health and quality of life throughout the years. We have qualified specialists and state-of-the-art technology – you are in good hands.

If you have been experiencing knee pain, don’t hesitate to consult our specialist orthopedics in Palm Beach County to get a thorough assessment and accurate diagnosis of your condition. You can also request an appointment or call us at (561) 395-5733.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.