Swimming is a hugely popular sport, and a great way of getting a cardio workout whilst increasing strength and stamina. However, like many sports, swimming can have its own distinct set of injuries which may cause you problems if you’re not prepared for them.
Whether you’re a recreational or competitive swimmer, if your swim is beginning to leave you in pain (or you want to find the best way to avoid those painful niggles), read on for the most common swimming injuries and how to fix them.
Despite being popular as a low-impact sport, swimming involves a huge number of repetitive movements performed against the resistance of the water. This is one of the ways in which swimming builds up muscle strength, but over time, if these movements are performed incorrectly, they can begin to cause pain and injuries for swimmers.
Swimming injuries are most regularly caused by:
• Poor technique, which can cause overcompensation on other muscles
• Suddenly increasing the amount of training, rather than a gradual build up
Swimmer’s shoulder is one of the most common problems, and is an umbrella term covering a variety of overuse injuries. Impingement is often the problem, which is where structures travelling through the shoulder joint get compressed or irritated. This causes pain when lifting the arm, and so can effect swimming as well as day-to-day lifting or other sports such as tennis.
Muscle imbalances can often contribute to swimmer’s shoulder injuries, and many swimmers have more movement in the joint than normal. The imbalances can often be due to the amount of training, which strengthens a particular set of muscles whilst not engaging others. Separate strengthening exercises or cross training can help to rebalance this and stabilise the shoulder joints.
Lower limb injuries like swimmer’s knee can also cause pain. Swimmer’s knee can be caused by poor technique or a core muscle instability, and is often triggered by the repeated movement in breaststroke which can damage the medial collateral ligament. This injury can have also have an effect on walking and non-swimming activities.
Swimming can also be responsible for back pain – again often due to a weakness in the core muscles or an incorrect technique. This usually leads to over compensating with muscles from the lower back, which can go on to cause pain.
How can physio help?
Sports and spinal physio can support swimmers both with the prevention (through swimming specific screening and exercise prescription) and rehabilitation of injuries.
It’s often said that prevention is better than cure, and a specialist physiotherapist can help with examining your current swimming technique and looking to make improvements to make your swimming more efficient. Strength training, core exercises or specific exercises for mobility can help you to correct any muscle imbalances and stabilise joints to prevent potential injuries.
If you’re already at the ‘cure’ stage, a physiotherapist can work with you to assess your injury and prescribe individualised exercises to help with your rehabilitation. Further work on education and technique can help you to come back stronger from your injury.
Turramurra Sports and Spinal Physiotherapy have a wealth of experience with swimming injuries. We have experience working with the NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) Emerging Talent Squad for both swimmer screening and exercise prescription. Call 9144-1510 now to schedule an appointment with one of our physiotherapists.