Swimming with persistent rotator cuff injury

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    Feb 13, 2011 5:56 PM GMT
    I've had a rotator cuff injury for years that has left my shoulders weakened and has limited the type of exercise I've been able to do. Most upper body weightlifting had to come to end, amongst other things.

    But now I've been getting really into swimming. At first it wasn't a problem, and I had thought it would be a great way to rehabilitate and strengthen my shoulder with a low-impact activity.

    Can anyone give me any tips? I feel it flaring up again, which could mean that it's gaining strength, but also that I'm making the injury get worse again.

    Is swimming freestyle an option? Do I just have to go light? Are there any stroke techniques that will help me to engage other parts of my shoulder and protect the rotator cuff?

    Anyone with rotator cuff injury and/or swimming experience who could help?
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    Feb 15, 2011 1:05 AM GMT
    I didn't give this thread a sexy enough title to get attention I guess.

    Basically... is swimming freestyle a bad idea with a rotator cuff injury? Can I still swim, and are there ways to swim with the injury that won't exacerbate it but will strengthen it over time?
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    Feb 15, 2011 1:07 AM GMT
    DO NOT continue until you have had therapy (proper) for that type of injury.
    Otherwise you may injure it beyond repair or useful function.
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    Feb 15, 2011 1:09 AM GMT
    t_h_r_i_v_e saidI've had a rotator cuff injury for years that has left my shoulders weakened and has limited the type of exercise I've been able to do. .

    BTDT but recently went thru 6 months of PROPER therapy for that and now have about 98 percent of normal function without surgery. I GOOD physical therapy program will do wonders.
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    Feb 15, 2011 1:10 AM GMT
    I did go to physio and doing the exercises didn't completely fix it. I thought it was okay to do light exercise and a bit of discomfort just meant it was getting stronger again and to ice it.
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    Feb 15, 2011 1:13 AM GMT
    t_h_r_i_v_e saidI did go to physio and doing the exercises didn't completely fix it. I thought it was okay to do light exercise and a bit of discomfort just meant it was getting stronger again and to ice it.
    Must not have been a very thorough PT program. Mine was 6 months and when i was done there was NO need to 'ice' anything. Discomfort means it IS NOT correct nor healed.
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    Feb 15, 2011 5:13 AM GMT
    Supposedly the physiotherapist I had was very reputable, but unfortunately, my right shoulder still gets the occasional pain.

    I really don't want to stop swimming though icon_sad.gif
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    Feb 15, 2011 5:15 AM GMT
    shoulder injuries are the most common type of injury for swimmers.

    a.k.a. if you have a shoulder injury, swimming isn't the best sport to pick up.
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    Feb 15, 2011 7:04 PM GMT
    Yeah the problem with shoulder injuries is that not any sport is good to pick up.

    I'm on 2 years and counting, so I feel your pain. Quite literally.

    Not sure I could add any advice. I hope you have enough money to see a good physio for another 6 months.
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    Feb 22, 2011 8:16 PM GMT
    Got my referral to physio today from the doctor. Also swam in the morning with no pain which is great, though I had to give myself the last week to relax my shoulder before I could go in. My friend showed me some good technique though, which will help me go easy on my shoulder when I swim.

    Hopefully six months won't be necessary, and hopefully I can still do some light swimming. We'll see though... I need to be open to whatever the physiotherapist tells me. I've got some good recommendations of who to see about the problem though.

    The doctor said that my muscle tone looked good, and she also told me that it didn't seem like terrible inflammation so I guess it's not as bad this time as when I originally had to go for physio about 4 years ago.

    Thanks for all the responses btw!

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    Feb 23, 2011 8:04 AM GMT
    Can't you just use a kickboard while you're rehabbing your shoulder?
    You'll get some exercise and you can work on your breathing without aggravating your injury.

    If you are going to swim, then elementary back stroke should be easier on your shoulder.
  • swimmermatt10...

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    Feb 23, 2011 8:15 AM GMT
    You should stop right this instant. Most of the time people go into the doctor for a rotator cuff injury and they are swimmers because they do the same motions over and over and over again it ruins it. I know 4 people who have had rotator cuff injuries and all 4 were told they had to get surgery or quit swimming...
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    Feb 23, 2011 12:37 PM GMT
    Ermine saidCan't you just use a kickboard while you're rehabbing your shoulder?
    You'll get some exercise and you can work on your breathing without aggravating your injury.

    If you are going to swim, then elementary back stroke should be easier on your shoulder.


    Back stroke is THE worst thing I could do to my shoulder in the pool.

    Kicking drills are possible but it seems that having my arms stretched out in front of me to the flutterboard causes the same shoulder irritation that any movement would.
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    Feb 23, 2011 12:38 PM GMT
    swimmermatt101 saidYou should stop right this instant. Most of the time people go into the doctor for a rotator cuff injury and they are swimmers because they do the same motions over and over and over again it ruins it. I know 4 people who have had rotator cuff injuries and all 4 were told they had to get surgery or quit swimming...


    Those sound like pretty severe rotator cuff injuries though. You can't paint one injury with the same brush.

    There's no way I'll never be able to swim again. As I had posted, the doctor said it was some inflammation but could be much worse. It also comes down to how often you swim, how hard you go in the pool, and if your form is good.
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    Feb 26, 2011 6:57 AM GMT
    Make sure your freestyle technique is not putting extra strain on your shoulder. I know I can feel it when my stroke starts falling apart like when I'm tired.

    Check this YouTube video to see how you are supposed to look swimming freestyle--it's my inspiration.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJpFVvho0o4

    I also use some online training to help me:

    http://bit.ly/swimtechnique

    With correct body position and roll, you will feel less strain on your shoulder. Also try mixing up your strokes. Try some back and breaststroke. Butterfly may be too much until you heal.



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    Feb 26, 2011 7:01 AM GMT
    Just noted your comment about how backstroke hurts your shoulder. Try rolling into your stroke--don't swim it flat.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CmM_Z3Zt5U
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    Mar 13, 2011 5:41 PM GMT
    I'm going to physio now... it's going to be a long run I tell ya. I have problems in both shoulders, as I've retaught myself some pretty bad habits in how I use my shoulders, I guess to avoid pain, etc.

    Hopefully in a few months I'll be able to swim regularly once again, but for now it's best that I retrain my shoulders proper movement etc.

    Thanks for all the posts and advice in this topic, I've read it all and appreciate it!