Monday, January 2, 2012

Shoulder Care Tips for Swimmers

Swimmer's shoulder is an overuse injury that is most often caused by the repetitive overhead arm motion you use during the freestyle stroke. Many factors contribute to this inflammatory condition, which is caused by chronic irritation to the soft tissues, or muscles, tendons and ligaments, in your shoulder. Swimmer's shoulder also is sometimes called impingement syndrome. If you suffer shoulder pain when swimming, you are not alone. Some 65 percent of competitive swimmers at some time have shoulder problems, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
In the initial stages of this condition you will have shoulder pain while swimming. Sleeping on the side that hurts will likely aggravate the pain. If your problem becomes advanced, you'll also have pain when you are not swimming. Your shoulder will become progressively more tender when touched. If you have shoulder pain when swimming it's important to visit a doctor for a proper diagnosis of which muscles, tendons and ligaments are involved.
If your pain is due to the most common type of impingement syndrome, or swimmer's shoulder, then muscle imbalance likely is the root of your problem, according to the Southern Pacific Master's Association. Your pectorals and lats, or large internal rotators, are used in the pull phase your freestyle stroke. Your smaller and weaker external rotators including your rotator cuff muscles are used in your recovery phase. The more common problem is weak external rotators, but your problem may be with either muscle group. If the problem is with internal rotators, you may have overdeveloped pectoral muscles along with underdeveloped rhomboids, upper lats or other muscles, which leads to shoulder instability. Seek advice from a doctor or physical therapist on which exercises are appropriate for strengthening weak muscles, advise the experts at the Cleveland Clinic.
Risk Factors
Other issues can raise your risk for swimmer's shoulder. These include over-training in which you do not allot enough recovery time, insufficient body roll, too much internal rotation during the catch phase so your thumb and index finger enter the water first with your palm facing outward instead of your middle finger entering first. Letting your hand cross the midline during your pull-through phase is another common cause. Another possible cause is cantilevering at the shoulder in the arm opposite your breathing side, common among swimmers who use one-sided breathing. If your elbow isn't cocked at the beginning of your catch phase, this will aggravate impingement syndrome, says chiropractor Jessica Seaton, author of the Southern Pacific Master's Association article "Swimmer's Shoulder." Using hand paddles that are significantly larger than your hand and don't have drainage holes also strain your shoulders during the pull-through phase. Extending your arms and swimming with a kickboard for long periods of time is another possible cause.
Proper swimming technique is the key to preventing swimmer's shoulder. The best way to correct your form is to gain instruction from a swimming coach, according to Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma in New York. Stretching also will help prevent this syndrome. Focus on stretching your triceps by raising your arm over your head, palm facing front. Bend your elbow. Attempt to reach the same-side shoulder blade, using your opposite arm to gently push your elbow back. Perform an infraspinatus stretch by extending your arm directly in front. Bend the bend your elbow across your body. Gently pull the elbow across your body with your other hand. Stretch your chest muscles by putting your elbows against a doorframe at a 90-degree angle. Rest your forearms on the frame, then step forward to gain the stretch. Stretch your levator scapulae. Replicate the first part of the triceps stretch, but look toward your opposite hip instead of pulling to stretch your arm muscles. Use your opposite hand to pull your head in the direction of your hip opposite. Perform an axial extension by pulling your chin back and down, like you are trying to make a double chin. Perform an upper trapezius stretch by leaning your head to one side and attempting to bring your ear toward your shoulder.

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