Pure Physio Blog

The Source of Shoulder Impingement.

Published on
19 Dec 2016

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The swimming season has finally arrived, sunshine in tow. Before you slide back into the pool, Johnny Wurtz shares his tips for avoiding swimmer’s shoulder this summer.

The seasonal shift.

It’s no doubt that many of us have had some time out of the water during the long stretch of winter. Whether you’ve reduced your weekly amount of swimming, or taken the cold months off – the sun is well and truly back in session.

Triathlon season is starting and a number of swimming events are taking centre stage in sporting calendars. It’s time to get back into the water and follow that long black line on the bottom of the pool – all in readiness for that wave start at the beach, or a first attempt at Lorne’s Pier to Pub.

Swimmer’s shoulder.

Swimmer’s shoulder is the name given to impingement occurring in the shoulder cuff. This injury causes irritation of the rotator cuff bursa (lubricating sac that protects the tendons) and/or tendons in the shoulder. 

It’s common amongst swimmers (as well as tennis and baseball players) due to the repetitive shoulder flexion, extension and rotation needed to swim efficiently. However, it is also very possible to experience symptoms due to other overhead activities performed on a daily basis. Activities that cause this injury can range from overhead lifting to throwing a ball.

Shoulder stabilising muscles may tighten or weaken from both technique or lack of use. This causes the position of the humeral head (upper arm) to change where it sits in the glenoid fossa (shoulder joint).

When the arm is moved into positions above horizontal or over the head – impingement of the cuff bursa and tendons on the roof of the shoulder can occur. There isn’t a whole lot of room within the shoulder joint as it is – so any misalignment can cause an impingement (pinching) of cuff bursa that results in pain and discomfort.

In the acute phase, the bursa may become inflamed, causing irritation and lack of strength. These early stages are important to treat because if repetition and discomfort continues to become restrictive, it is possible that a complete rupture of the tendon may occur over time.

Stay aware.

It’s important to be aware of any pain, discomfort or mobility issues you may have. It’s not always safe to assume that these pains will go away as you continue your exercise routine. It’s possible that repetitions or prolonging these movements may be making things worse.

There are a number of tests that can be undertaken in order to determine the presence of impingement. If you are diagnosed early you may only require new exercises from a physio to help strengthen your rotator cuff muscles.

Remedial massage also plays an important role in recovery, as it aids in lengthening targeted soft tissue to regain the correct movement of the shoulder.

If left untreated, and damage increases within the shoulder, it is possible that surgery may be required. Ask the hard questions and avoid any serious injury later on by fixing the problems early.

We’re here to help, so if you require consultation or further information, get in touch or make an appointment with one of our friendly staff today.

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