Assisting Swimmer’s Shoulder through Massage

swim, swimming, beach, pool, water

SLV swim meet by Jim Bahn via flickr. Licensed under creative commons.

With summer here, there’s probably no more popular sport than swimming. Whether you are swimming competitively, or merely for fun and to cool off, you will want to be spending plenty of time at the beach or in the pool.

Unfortunately, swimming can give rise to the troublesome condition called ‘swimmer’s shoulder’, which can put a real cramp in your enjoyment and keep you out of the water. Read on to find out some interesting information.

Some of my mobile massage clients see me through the year to keep them in tip top shape.

What Is Swimmer’s Shoulder?

Swimmer’s shoulder is most likely to arise when you use an overhead stroke that brings your arms up out of the water in a wide arc. This can give rise to damage to the shoulder joint, especially the soft tissues surrounding the bones, such as the muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

While the shoulder is designed to handle a great range of motion, it can be strained by repetitive motions, such as are used when swimming. In addition to repetition, swimmer’s shoulder can occur if the wrong swimming technique is employed, or the swimmer neglects to warm up adequately before entering the water.

Pain from swimmer’s shoulder can be so severe that it will be impossible to swim. There are actually a number of conditions that are lumped together under the term, but all of them cause pain and will need to be treated before swimming activity can be resumed. In some cases, the muscles have become strained, while in others the ligaments or tendons might be damaged, or it can easily be a combination of conditions.

Overcoming Swimmer’s Shoulder

The first thing to do when dealing with swimmer’s shoulder is to stop swimming immediately – continuing to injure the shoulder will only result more damage that will take longer to repair. A shoulder which is only slightly injured will often recover without intervention as long as it is rested, while more severely damaged shoulders will require therapy and sometimes surgery.

A massage therapist who is skilled in sports or remedial massage can often help heal swimmer’s shoulder quickly, and this massage will be beneficial in a number of ways:

  • Improved circulation will speed recovery of damaged tissues.
  • Tight, painful muscles will be loosened.
  • Adhesions, or scar tissue from torn muscles, will interfere with normal movement and cause pain. Massage breaks down adhesions to return tissues to normal.
  • Massage will help to reduce swelling by helping the body remove excess fluid from the injured shoulder.
  • Range of motion will be restored by a sports massage, and you will also enjoy greater flexibility.

Although most swimmers wait until they are unable to swim because of the pain before visiting a massage therapist, it’s actually a good idea to schedule regular massages before you begin to suffer. While you may think of the muscles of the shoulder being the only ones that are relevant to swimmer’s shoulder, muscles in your neck, back, and legs also play a part in the movement of your shoulder joint.

Your therapist will provide a massage to these areas as well, to help make sure that all these accessory muscles are in the best condition possible, reducing the likelihood of swimmer’s shoulder developing.

Those of you who are swimming competitively will definitely benefit from pre-event massage. A sports massage before the meet will relax and focus you as well as warming your muscles and increasing the flexibility of your joints.

However, regardless of your skill level in swimming, a weekly or bi-weekly massage will help assure that you are less likely to suffer from swimmer’s shoulder and be able to spend more time in the water.