– with Sports Physiotherapist Ivan Hooper
Spring has hit and with it warmer weather is on its way. As the temperatures rise our exercise thoughts often turn to swimming as a way of keeping fit and keeping cool.
Shoulder pain is a common complaint for swimmers, and is especially prevalent as people are ramping up their kilometres in the pool after a long winters hibernation. Here are a few tips from our Sports Physiotherapist Ivan Hooper, who has spent the last 2 years working with the Australian Swim Team as their Clinical Services Manager – Physiotherapy. His role is to coordinate and manage the physiotherapy services being provided to elite swimmers around Australia. With Ivan’s extensive experience, he has shared with us some tips on what to be considering, that might help prevent shoulder pain from happening to you as you hit the water this spring.
Make your shoulder strong – Making sure that the muscles of your shoulder are strong will decrease your risk of injury when you get back in the water. Whilst everyone is a bit different, the common muscles that need strengthening to avoid injury are the muscles that control the position of your shoulder blades, and the rotator cuff muscles. Try these exercises to get a head start. Remember that everyone is a bit different, and you may need a strengthening program that is more specific for you. In that case it would be a good idea to drop in a see your physiotherapist at QSMC for an individualised program.
Prone T Raises
Starting with arms on ground straight out from the body just below shoulder height. Engage between shoulder blades and lift arms off the ground keeping thumb pointing to ceiling. Hold squeeze at top for 1-3 secs and slowly release back to the ground. Repeat for 10-20 reps. Ensure not to engage neck or upper trap muscles.
Prone Y Raises
Starting with arms in Y position above shoulder height with thumbs point up. Engage shoulder blades to lift arms off ground, hold squeeze for 1-3 seconds and slowly release back to the ground. Repeat for 10-20 reps. Ensure not too engage neck or arch up through lower back.
Build up slowly – One of the big mistakes lots of people make is to get back into things too quickly and do more than their body is ready for. There is lots of evidence now that how much you do, and how quickly you increase that amount has a big impact on the risk of developing an injury. If you have been out of the pool for a while make sure you take it easy at first and slowly build up the amount that you are doing. Early on it is advisable to only swim every second to third day to allow time for your muscles and joint tissues to recover and adapt.
Keep an eye on the frequency of your sessions (how many sessions you are doing a week) the volume of the sessions (how much you do each session) and the intensity within the sessions (how hard you are going). Try to build all of these areas up slowly and you are a good chance of avoiding an injury.
Recover between sessions – When you haven’t been swimming for a while it can be a bit of a shock to the system. Often you feel pretty good in the first session, but your muscles pull up sore and tight, and the next session can seem a lot harder. Making sure you give your muscles some care and attention between your swimming sessions will help you hit each session feeling good. Doing some self massage and stretching to the muscles that work hard might do the trick.
Back of Shoulder – Position a tennis ball against a wall and lean the back of your shoulder blade onto the ball. Roll across the back of the shoulder blade to find tight / sore areas within the muscles. Hold the pressure on the tight areas for 20-30 secs before moving onto the next tight spot. Do this for a total of 3-4 mins.
Front of shoulder – put your shoulder in a pec stretch position, pictured. Using the fingers of the other hand massage across the pec muscles from the point of the shoulder towards your sternum. The pec muscle is a fan shape – so make sure you cover all areas for a total of 3-4 mins.
Lat Stretch – put the arm that you are stretching on the floor in front of you with your palm facing up. Lean your body away to extend your shoulder to feel a stretch in your lat. Hold the position for 20-30 secs and repeat 3 times each side.
By sticking to these tips, chances are you can build up your swimming and enjoy all the benefits of this great sport. If you do sustain an injury or feel you need a more detailed assessment before hitting the water, make sure you get in touch with your physiotherapist at QSMC. Don’t let an injury get in the way of your exercise goals this spring.