Swimmer’s Shoulder Physical Therapy

Georgia Hand, Shoulder, and Elbow

There are few things in life that compare to swimming. You feel completely weightless and so powerful at the same time as you soar through the water. Every stroke is magnificent! You just want to keep that feeling forever. However, sometimes the things that bring us so much joy can also cause us pain.

Whether you are doing the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, or just swimming freestyle, all of these actions require the use of your shoulders. The pain you feel may be due to a condition called swimmer’s shoulder. 

Our experts at Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow are ready to assist you with your shoulder sports injury. For your convenience, our offices are located in Atlanta and Marietta, Georgia. 

What Is Swimmer’s Shoulder?

Swimmer’s shoulder (also known as shoulder impingement) is an overuse injury. The constant joint rotation you experience while swimming can cause aggravation to your shoulder. 

This aggravation leads to your rotator cuff tendon becoming symptomatic as it begins to rub against the top of your shoulder blade (acromion). This repetitive cycle of rubbing against the bone leads to increased pain as you continue using it and significant discomfort even when your shoulder is resting. 

Signs and Symptoms of Swimmer’s Shoulder

Our bodies are incredible and will often give us signs indicating that something is wrong. There are some common signs of swimmer’s shoulder that you should take note of. 

Signs of Swimmer’s Shoulder

  • Radiating pain that can be felt along the back of your shoulder and feels like it comes from deep within your muscles 
  • Pain that runs along the front of your shoulder
  • Increased pain while participating in activities that require repetitive overhead reaching and stretching, such as swimming
  • Pain that can be felt from your shoulder joint that travels down your arm or up to your neck due to various parts of your shoulder being injured


Symptoms of Swimmer’s Shoulder

It is best to see a qualified specialist if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms. If you delay receiving the proper treatment, your symptoms may worsen.

  • Pain when reaching your arms over your head and or behind your back
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Shoulder weakness and/or stiffness
  • Increased joint laxity
  • Swelling and/or tenderness
  • Less strength when compared to your other shoulder 


Stretches That Can Help Relieve Swimmer’s Shoulder 

Stretches are a powerful asset when it comes to preventing injury and relieving swimmer’s shoulder. A few stretches that have been very effective for swimmers to implement before swimming include:

  • Wall Press
  • Lats Stretch
  • Thread the Needle 
  • Cross Arm Stretch
  • Doorway Pec Stretch
  • Behind Back Lock Stretch
  • Tricep Stretch
  • Open Book
  • Child’s Pose


How Can Swimmer’s Shoulder be Prevented?

It’s been said that prevention is the best medicine. Below you will find some helpful tips to help you prevent swimmer’s shoulder. 

Assess Your Form

If you are not swimming with the proper form, you are more likely to injure yourself. Taking time to learn and incorporate the appropriate technique into your strokes will help you reduce injury and improve your skill. 

Make Time and Allowances for Adequate Rest

Swimmer’s shoulder is an overuse injury, so sometimes it may be vital to take a break from swimming and other physical activities to prevent injury from occurring. Adequate rest will give your body the time it needs to heal and allow your swelling to decrease. 

This rest period may not have to be for an extended amount of time. Sometimes just 24-48 hours does the trick, and your shoulder will thank you! 

Physical Therapy for Swimmer’s Shoulder 

Thankfully, swimmer’s shoulder can be treated by nonsurgical means. Physical therapy plays a key factor in your recovery process. Physical therapy can help you:

  • Recover from shoulder impingement 
  • Prevent injury from occurring in the future
  • Improve your flexibility and range of motion
  • Release tension in your muscles
  • Recondition your shoulder to avoid weakness in the future 


Physical therapy will help strengthen your rotator cuff muscles and provide your shoulder joint the support it needs. This is done through various stretches, manual massages for your hard-to-reach rotator cuff muscles, and strengthening exercises that your physical therapist will tailor to your specific needs. 

Swimming brings immense joy to many and should be done without the burden of pain. At Georgia Hand, Shoulder & Elbow, our physicians have decades of experience helping patients recover from swimmer’s shoulder

Schedule an appointment at our Atlanta or Marietta, GA office today. We can help relieve your pain and get you back in the water where you belong!

Medically reviewed by

Bryan J. Sirmon, MD

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Plastic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon

Hand & Orthopaedic Surgeon