How To Prevent Swimming Shoulder Injuries


Although it is regarded as one of the best ways of exercise, swimming is not as harmless as it seems. Yes, it is a non-contact type of sport (except if you play water polo), and it is commonly recommended by physical therapists all around the world as one of the most important parts of physical therapies during recovering from injuries, as It helps your body heal faster while keeping you in a good shape.

But if you’re not careful enough, a relaxing and good swimming session could turn into a really problematic thing as you could end up injured. This article will help you learn how to know when the possibility of injury is high, some of the best ways to prevent it, and also what to do if something goes wrong and you end up with your shoulder hurting and preventing you from continuing your practice.

What Causes Injuries?

The first thing that can cause shoulder injury is overuse. Every move you make forces your muscles to work harder and harder, and it can become a real problem if you do that continuously every day. The second one is the poor swimming technique and stroke mechanics. The third one is mostly based on the fact that you didn’t warm up or stretch your shoulder, this way preventing it from achieving the right condition for planned tasks. If your shoulder muscles are still cold, the activity could force them to wear off. The last one becomes especially important if you’re planning to swim in cold water.

Pre, During, And Post Pool Time

To keep your shoulders healthy and lower the injury possibility, there are some things you can do before you hit the pool, during your training session, and once you finish your workout, which will help you keep them in the best possible shape.

Pre-Pool Time

The “pre-pool activities” include visiting a doctor before you head to the swimming pool, but also warming up and some dryland exercises that will help you achieve the optimal condition to start your practice.

Start By Visiting A Doctor

It may seem the same, but swimming training is probably a lot different from person to person. Visiting a doctor for a quick check-up before you hit the pool could help you choose the best one for you. For example, the swimming workout that works for someone you know could get you injured, so it is best to learn precisely what do you need.

Warming Up

Warming up serves as a way of reaching the right temperature and slowly releasing the strength from your shoulders without overusing them. To achieve this there are three possible options.

The first one is stretching. A simple one will do, as it will relax your muscles and prepare them for the training. The second one is the band exercises. They are great for the above-mentioned purpose of slowly releasing the strength without causing any damage to your shoulders or overusing them. And the third one is dryland exercises.

To warm up your shoulders you can do some dips if you have a bench available, but make sure you stop as soon as your shoulders begin to hurt. Another good option is the bench pushups. The bench will keep your upper body elevated, causing less stress to your shoulders, allowing you to slowly achieve what you want without any damage.

During Pool Time


You’re warmed up, you feel great, and ready to enter the pool and start your session. But that doesn’t mean you’re done with paying attention to your shoulders and your body signs. Listen to it, and do not try to force it if you can’t.

If It Hurts, Stop

There is no better observer of your shoulder health than yourself. If you feel unease or your shoulders start to hurt, stop, and take a break. If you decide to go through it, you can cause some serious injury, some of them permanent, which could cause you to temporarily stop, or even finish your swimming career. When you get out of the pool, use the wall to stretch your arms and shoulders. If it doesn’t help and the pain remains the same while you swim, it is recommended to visit a doctor.

Swimming Techniques

Some swimming techniques could have more effect on your shoulders and can more easily cause injuries than others. If your swimming session is based on freestyle, your shoulder muscles are being overused by constantly repeating the same motion endlessly, time after time, without the chance to rest. If your shoulders start to hurt, it is time to switch to backstroke. It uses different types of muscles, lets your shoulders recover, and also helps your whole body by placing those muscles work harder.

Another technique that could potentially harm your shoulders is a butterfly. The best solution if your shoulder – or both – start to hurt is to stop and let them rest, or change technique to breaststroke or backstroke. But if you’re determined to continue swimming butterfly, try a one-arm butterfly using a kickboard. It will let one of your shoulders rest while you use the other one, forcing you to use more of your body to do it properly. And let the roll take you instead of your arms.

Avoid Paddles If You Have Shoulder Problems

Paddles are mainly used to help you achieve more strength in your upper body by letting you use your shoulders and chest muscles to move instead of your arms. It also means that more water resistance created by paddles will put your shoulders under a heavy burden, which could lead to an injury. If you want to stick to the paddles but your shoulder hurts, try using smaller ones. Remember, bigger paddles create more water resistance, which causes more stress. Or you could use buoy.

Pay Attention To Your Technique

A wrong swimming technique is one of the possible reasons behind shoulder injuries. If your shoulder starts to hurt before you decide to visit the doctor, try to find a swimming coach to help you identify possible flaws and improve your stroke technique.

There are some possible mistakes you make:

  • Wrong hand placement on the entry. It means your hand crosses over on the entry part of your stroke, putting your arm in an angle that could cause an injury. The proper way is to reach straight.
  • You don’t rotate your body enough. It also puts your hand on a bad angle, carrying your shoulders too far. Practice rolling your body from side to side while you swim.
  • You drop your elbow while pulling. The trick is to angle your fingertips towards the bottom of the pool, this way making sure you’ve got a high elbow catch. It will maximize the pull using your back muscles instead of your shoulders, preventing them from getting overused.

After Practice

Getting out of your pool is not the end of your practice. Once you’re done with your relaxing laps and on the ground again, stretch your shoulders as soon as you can. It will ease the tension around them and help them recover more quickly.

If you feel weird, look around where the physical therapists are and ask them for advice on what to do. If you have a shoulder injury, they will show you how to properly stretch them, but also what to do if it doesn’t pass soon.

And if you have ice or heat packs, before you use them, ask a doctor or therapist. Sometimes it is good, will help your muscles relax, other times ice is a better choice as it can reduce swelling and ease the pain. But whatever you do, consult professionals first!

Listen To Your Body

If you pay enough attention to your body signs, the risk of getting injured should be as low as possible. Don’t ignore them because they are the language your body uses to tell you if everything is OK and should you slow down. Taking care of yourself and staying healthy is the foundation of your further development, so don’t ignore them, or you’ll risk losing everything you’ve gained so far.

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Swimming is a no-contact sport, but the water resistance should not be taken lightly, as It could cause real problems to your shoulders if you overuse them. This article should serve as a quick guide on some of the basics when it comes to learning about possible shoulder injuries and ways on how to prevent them or treat them.

If the injury does occur – and it can remember, swimming is physical activity at the end of the day – do not fall into despair. Be patient and persistent, and you’ll be back in the pool in a no-time. And while you’re out, there are some other fun activities to do.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!