Monday, January 2, 2012

Rotator Cuff Shoulder Muscles and Swimming

Your rotator cuff is made of muscles and tendons in your shoulder. These muscles and tendons allow your shoulder to have a great range of motion and provide support. Swimming is a good aerobic activity but can cause a rotator cuff injury like swimmer's shoulder because it involves repetitive motion and repeated use of the shoulder muscles. Though swimming can be rough on the shoulders, there are ways that you can prevent an injury.
Swimmer's Shoulder
Swimmer's shoulder is an injury of the shoulder that can involve the rotator cuff muscles. Approximately 65 percent of competitive swimmers will experience a shoulder injury at some point, according to Cleveland Clinic. Consider that a competitive swimmer can swim six to eight miles a day and may do up to 1 million strokes a year. This repeated use and constant rotation of the shoulder contributes to this injury. If you have a chronic injury that involves the rotator cuffs, muscles can tear or become inflamed.
Symptoms and Treatments
The symptoms of swimmer's shoulder depend on which muscles are involved. In a typical injury, pain may be worse at night and may affect sleep, your ability to swim and arm and shoulder rotation. A rotator cuff tear involves inflammation and pain and needs to be evaluated by a doctor. Treatment may involve resting the affected shoulder or exercise therapy. Medications can also be used to help with pain. If you have a torn rotator cuff, surgery may be required in severe cases.
It is important to stretch for five to 10 minutes and warm up before you swim. Equally as important is strengthening the muscles you will use for swimming. Pay attention to your body and learn the difference between normal muscle soreness and early signs of an injury like decreased range of motion, weakness and pain. If you swim through shoulder pain, you may make the injury worse and harder to diagnose. See a doctor if you experience symptoms of an injury.
Two Strengthening Exercises for Swimmers
The Cleveland Clinic indicates that strengthening exercises are important to avoid shoulder injuries. If strengthening exercises cause pain or feelings of weakness, stop because you may already have an injury.
Protract your shoulder muscles by laying flat on your back and holding 1- to 5-lb. weights in each hand. Push your arms straight toward the ceiling by keeping your back against the floor and your elbows straight. Slowly lower your hands to your sides.
Perform an active resistive internal rotation exercise. Lie on your back and grasp elastic tubing that is attached to something stable at one end, with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle and your forearm lying on the ground and pointing away from your body. The tubing should have some tension. Keeping your elbow at your side, bring your hand holding the tubing across your body in a semicircle so your forearm comes to rest across your torso. Repeat this exercise using each arm.

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