Swimmer’s Shoulder: Symptoms and Treatment for Better Mobility 

Swimmer’s shoulder, also known as shoulder impingement syndrome, is a common overuse injury among swimmers, characterised by pain and inflammation in the shoulder joint. This condition can significantly impact mobility and performance in the water. Understanding the symptoms and treatment options for swimmer’s shoulder is essential for athletes to manage the condition effectively and prevent further injury. Physiotherapists play a crucial role in treating swimmer’s shoulder and other related physical problems, helping athletes regain mobility and return to peak performance. 

Symptoms of Swimmer’s Shoulder 

Pain: Swimmer’s shoulder typically presents as a dull ache or sharp pain in the front or side of the shoulder during or after swimming. The pain may worsen with specific movements, such as overhead arm motions or reaching across the body. 

Decreased Range of Motion: Individuals with swimmer’s shoulder may experience stiffness and limited range of motion in the affected shoulder. Difficulty raising the arm or reaching behind the back is common. 

Weakness: Muscle weakness in the shoulder and surrounding muscles may develop over time due to pain and inflammation. This weakness can affect swimming performance and daily activities. 

Clicking or Popping Sensation: Some individuals may notice a clicking or popping sensation in the shoulder joint during movement. This may indicate underlying issues such as tendon irritation or instability. 

Swelling and Tenderness: Inflammation of the shoulder tendons and bursa can lead to swelling, tenderness and warmth around the shoulder joint. 

Treatment for Swimmer’s Shoulder 

Rest and Activity Modification: Resting the shoulder and avoiding activities that aggravate symptoms is essential for allowing the injured tissues to heal. Modifying swimming techniques and reducing training intensity may be necessary during the recovery period. 

Physical Therapy: Physiotherapy plays a central role in the treatment of swimmer’s shoulder. Physiotherapists employ various techniques, including manual therapy, stretching exercises and strengthening exercises, to improve shoulder mobility, stability and strength. 

Modalities: Modalities such as ice therapy, heat therapy and ultrasound may be used to reduce pain and inflammation in the shoulder joint. 

Postural Correction: Addressing poor posture and biomechanical imbalances can help alleviate stress on the shoulder joint and prevent future injury. Physiotherapists may prescribe exercises to improve posture and enhance body awareness. 

Gradual Return to Activity: Once symptoms improve, a gradual return to swimming and other activities is recommended. Physiotherapists can provide guidance on proper technique, training progression and injury prevention strategies. 

Role of Physiotherapists in Treatment 

Comprehensive Assessment: Physiotherapists conduct a thorough assessment to identify the underlying causes of swimmer’s shoulder and develop an individualised treatment plan tailored to the athlete’s specific needs and goals. 

Manual Therapy: Hands-on techniques such as joint mobilisation, soft tissue mobilisation and massage help relieve muscle tension, improve joint mobility and promote healing. 

Exercise Prescription: Physiotherapists prescribe targeted exercises to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint, improve flexibility and correct imbalances. These exercises help restore normal shoulder function and prevent recurrence of injury. 

Education and Self-Management: Physiotherapists educate athletes about proper swimming technique, injury prevention strategies and self-management techniques to manage symptoms and optimise shoulder health. 

Monitoring and Progression: Throughout the treatment process, physiotherapists monitor progress closely and adjust the treatment plan as needed to ensure optimal outcomes. They provide ongoing support and guidance to help athletes achieve their rehabilitation goals. 

Returning to the Activities You Love 

Swimmer’s shoulder can be a debilitating condition that affects performance and quality of life for swimmers. Physiotherapists play a vital role in the treatment of swimmer’s shoulder, offering a comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying causes of the injury and promotes recovery. Through a combination of manual therapy, exercise prescription, education and support, physiotherapists help athletes and hobbyists regain mobility, reduce pain and return to the water with confidence.