Swimming is a favorite Australian past time and one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy. Swimming is also very low impact, which means that it’s a great way to keep moving well into your later years. This is especially true if you have joint conditions like osteoarthritis.

While lower limb injuries are rare in the sport, the risk of upper limb injuries is comparatively higher. As a swimming coach and swimmer myself, I have seen a fair few. The potential for injury arises from the high demand on the shoulders with the majority of your forward propulsion coming from your arms. If ignored, those niggles can develop into more serious conditions.

The good news is that much of the time these problems can be very well managed if addressed early. Often the cause of shoulder pain can be traced back to sub-optimal technique, strength imbalances or inappropriate training schedules. Teaming together our knowledge of swimming and experience in physiotherapy, we here at Watsonia physiotherapy are well placed to identify and assist you in managing your swimming related shoulder pain.

Often swimmers will develop imbalance or impingement within the shoulder. A common presentation is well-developed pectoral and latissimus dorsi muscles, which are often stronger than the smaller yet very important rotator cuff muscles. This imbalance can ultimately lead to instability of the shoulder joint.

Alternatively aspects of a swimmers stroke can be contributing to shoulder pain. A common example in freestyle (Australian crawl), are swimmers who don’t rotate the trunk sufficiently throughout the stroke. When this happens the shoulder joint is placed under greater stress in rotating the arm, often causing impingement of the structures within the joint. This manifests as reduced reach (or range of motion) and the potential for shoulder pain and injury.

A comprehensive assessment with one of our physiotherapists can help identify and understand what is causing your pain. From there we can develop a management or rehab plan with you so that you can achieve your swimming goals.

If you, or anyone you know is experiencing swimming related shoulder pain, drop into Watsonia Physiotherapy to keep you swimming strong and pain free.

Thanks for reading,

Tom Wallace


Tom W swim