Many swimmers and surfers will get shoulder pain, upper back pain and neck pain periodically. Your chiropractor can relieve these symptoms but it is important to look at the underlying cause of your injury. The nature of freestyle or “front crawl’ stroke encourages over-activation of the pectoralis muscles and, with poor form, causes your shoulders to repetitively internally rotate resulting in an overuse injury.
Excessively tight pectoralis muscles or repetitive stress from this mechanism leads to irritation of the soft tissues around your shoulders, particularly on the inside-front. Due to there being a number of ligaments, tendons, bursae, cartilage and joint capsules in this area, a repetitive stress can cause inflammation and irritation in any of the above structures.
Here are 5 tips on how to avoid injury:
- Ensure you are breathing on both sides. Excessive head turning to one side will cause an imbalance and a repetitive stress on that side.
- Encourage the use of body rotation, as opposed to keeping a flat back and purely rotating through your arms.
- Postural correction: Using postural corrective techniques, and focusing on strengthening your core and lower scapular stabiliser muscles, will counteract all the forward pressure from tight chest and shoulder muscles. Your chiropractor can guide you through this process using corrective adjustments, mobilising and using at-home traction to correct your imbalance accompanied by stretching out the involved tight muscles preventing future injury during your swim training.
- Ensure your arms are slightly bent when in the “pulling through” phase of the stroke. This encourages your body to use your large chest muscles and less of your shoulder.
- Regularly stretch your pectoralis muscles and your upper trapezius muscles to avoid a raised and internally rotated shoulder.
Pectoralis Major/Minor Stretch
Hold each stretch for 30 seconds – 1 minute. With your thumb up and holding onto a door frame, twist your body away from your arm. Feel a stretch in your chest, into your bicep or further down your arm. Repeat 2-3 times per day.
Upper Trapezius Stretch
Sitting on one hand or placing your arm behind your back to anchor your shoulder down, raise your other arm above your ear, pull away and slightly forwards and feel a stretch down the side of your neck. Repeat 2-3 times per day.