If you have recently started swimming competitively, or for pleasure, you should be aware of swimmer's shoulder. Swimmer's shoulder occurs from the repetitive overhead arm motions in swimming. The overhead motions contract the hollow space between the shoulder blade and humerus, called the subcromial space.
Swimming uses mostly upper body motions, which puts the shoulder at risk. Avoid swimmers shoulder with the following tips.
Reduce the Use of Paddles
Paddles put more strain on your shoulders. These devices create a false floating sensation, and they are often not needed in training.
If you still intend to use these devices, try to reduce the use of them, and buy a smaller set of paddles. Aim for paddles no more than 10% bigger than your hands. Anytime your shoulders start to hurt, remove the paddles.
Change Your Technique
Watch your hand placement in the water. Don't allow the hand to cross on the entry portion of the stroke, or you will strain the shoulder. Keep the arms out in front of you.
The "thumb first" entry technique you may have heard about only causes excessive rotation. Keep the hand flat as you enter the water.
Pay attention to your posture. As you swim, think,"Shoulders back, chest out". Also, keep the body rolling. Lack of rotation puts the shoulders at an odd angle.
Work on a high-elbow technique. Most swimmers glide through the water with a straight arm or dropped elbow. These techniques only strain the shoulder. Practice angling your fingers to the bottom of the pool.
Reduce the time spent doing the butterfly stroke. The butterfly stroke fatigues the shoulders easily. Change to a one-arm butterfly stroke, or practice backstroke every now and then to give the muscles a rest.
Stretch and Strengthen the Rotator Cuff
Strengthening the rotator cuff will add more strength and balance. Rotator cuffs are often under-used muscles, which leads to unstable shoulders.
Hold a stretch cord or cable in your hand, and bend you elbow. Pull the arm forward until it is even with the bicep. Don't move the elbow. Repeat with the other arm.
Face a wall with your arm extended, and place a tennis ball under one palm. Roll the ball in small circles to the right for about fifteen seconds, then reverse direction. Repeat with the other arm.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. With a towel in your hand, raise your arms slowly overhead. Push the arms back until you feel a stretch, and hold it for thirty seconds.
It pays knowing how to prevent swimmer's shoulder. If you have a shoulder injury, or you need more suggestions for injury prevention, see a physical therapist at a location like Advanced Physical Therapy.