Swimmer's Shoulder

What is a Swimmer's Shoulder?

Swimmer’s shoulder, also known as shoulder impingement syndrome, is a term used to describe a set of shoulder-related injuries and conditions. Unlike the name suggests, swimmer’s shoulder affects not only swimmers, but also baseball players, tennis players, construction workers, and electricians. The repetitive motions that many people engage in on a daily basis can cause conditions like tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, and swimmer’s shoulder. These issues often arise due to overuse, poor stroke mechanics, muscle imbalances, and insufficient shoulder flexibility.

If you have a question about whether your condition should be treated by one of our hand therapists, call Restored Hope Hand Therapy at (928) 275-2201.


The shoulder is a highly mobile joint in the body. For this reason, it requires a good amount of support from the surrounding muscles and ligaments. It is possible to overwork the muscles and ligaments in the following ways:

  • Training too much
  • Using poor techniques
  • Fatigued muscles
  • Hypermobility
  • Having a previous shoulder injury
  • Using hand paddles that are too large

Symptoms & Risk Factors

Swimmer’s shoulder typically presents with a range of symptoms that may vary in intensity. Common signs include:

  • Shoulder Pain: Persistent pain, often felt in the front of the shoulder or on the outside of the arm, especially during or after swimming.
  • Decreased Range of Motion: Limited shoulder mobility, making certain movements, such as reaching overhead, painful or challenging.
  • Weakness: A sense of weakness in the shoulder, particularly when attempting to lift or move the arm.
  • Swelling and Tenderness: Swelling and tenderness around the shoulder joint, indicating inflammation.
  • Clicking or Popping Sensations: Some individuals may experience clicking or popping sensations in the shoulder during movement.

Your risk is significantly increased if you take part in sports requiring repeated throwing motions or intense shoulder movement. Specific sports include:

  • Baseball pitching
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Weightlifting

If your job requires constant shoulder movements like painting, carpentry, and window washing, your chances of developing swimmer’s shoulder increase. Natural age-related shoulder structure deterioration can also result in swimmer’s shoulder. Moreover, the condition could occur following events capable of causing serious and acute shoulder trauma such as falls and car accidents.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you experience persistent shoulder pain or discomfort, seeking a proper diagnosis is essential. A healthcare professional, such as a sports medicine physician or orthopedic specialist, may conduct a thorough examination, review your medical history, and may order imaging studies such as X-rays or MRI to assess the extent of the injury.

Here are several ways a hand therapist at Restored Hope Hand Therapy may approach the treatment of swimmer’s shoulder:

  • Assessment and Evaluation: We’ll conduct a thorough evaluation of the shoulder, considering range of motion, strength, stability, and any specific areas of pain or discomfort.
  • Education: Provide education on proper shoulder mechanics, emphasizing the importance of good technique to reduce stress on the shoulder joint.
  • Range of Motion Exercises: Prescribe and guide you through specific range of motion exercises to improve flexibility in the shoulder joint. This may include stretches targeting the muscles around the shoulder.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Develop a customized strengthening program to address muscle imbalances and enhance the strength of the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers.
  • Scapular Mobilization: Incorporate scapular mobilization exercises to ensure proper movement and stability of the shoulder blade, which is crucial for overall shoulder function.
  • Modalities for Pain Management: Utilize therapeutic modalities such as ice, heat, or ultrasound for pain management and to reduce inflammation.
  • Manual Therapy: Provide hands-on manual therapy techniques to address soft tissue restrictions, improve joint mobility, and reduce muscle tension.
  • Functional Training: Integrate functional training exercises that mimic the sport or work movements to help the you regain strength and coordination specific to your sport or job.
  • Patient Education on Home Exercise Program: Create a tailored home exercise program to ensure continuity of care and facilitate ongoing recovery.
  • Posture Correction: Assess and address any postural issues that may contribute to shoulder problems, as poor posture can affect shoulder mechanics.
  • Gradual Return to Activity: Collaboratively develop a gradual return-to-sport or return-to-work plan, ensuring that you resume your activity at an appropriate pace to avoid overloading the shoulder.
  • Monitoring Progress: Regularly reassess the progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed.
  • Collaboration with Other Healthcare Professionals: Collaborate with other healthcare providers, such as orthopedic specialists or physical therapists, to ensure comprehensive care for the shoulder.

Preventing Swimmer's Shoulder

It’s important to remember that certain lifestyle changes and exercises can significantly reduce your risk of swimmer’s shoulder, like:

  • Proper Warm-Up: Adequate warm-up before swimming can help prepare the shoulder muscles for the demands of the activity.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Incorporating exercises that target the rotator cuff, shoulder stabilizers, and scapular muscles can help prevent imbalances and enhance shoulder strength.
  • Stretching Routine: Regular stretching exercises to maintain or improve shoulder flexibility are essential.
  • Technique Evaluation: Working with a qualified coach to assess and improve swimming technique can reduce the risk of overuse injuries.
  • Cross-Training: Including cross-training activities in the fitness routine can help prevent overuse and provide variety to the muscles.
  • Periodization: Implementing structured training programs with planned periods of rest and recovery is crucial for preventing overtraining and fatigue.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Don’t let shoulder pain or injury keep you in a bind. Reach out to Restored Hope Hand Therapy today and take a decisive step towards reclaiming your life from the clutches of shoulder pain. We are well-equipped to provide the support and professional guidance necessary for a successful rehabilitation journey. Call us today to schedule an appointment and embark on the path to recovery.

Shoulder Therapy Options

At Restored Hope, we will help you to maximize your recovery and develop
individualized-specific therapy programs to offer you the best possible results.
Contact us today to learn about available treatment options.


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