What Is Swimmers Shoulder And How Is It Treated?

February 18th, 2019 Becki Andrus

When you initially see or hear the term ‘shoulder injury’ your first inclination might be to associate that topic with an issue of the rotator cuff, and if you ever find yourself experiencing a shoulder ache, then it is certainly possible that a rotator cuff problem might be the culprit.

This is not to suggest that there cannot be other causes of shoulder pain, and some injuries such as a frozen shoulder (a condition that causes pain and stiffness) or a labral tear (torn shoulder cartilage ) can present similar symptoms to what exists with a rotator cuff problem.

There are other common causes for discomfort in this area of your body, including arthritis, bursitis, impingement, infection, and tendonitis, along with more serious issues such as bicep tears, or various fractures, dislocations, and separations. 

However, the majority of shoulder injuries are associated with rotator cuffs, and these issues can develop for multiple reasons. It is easier to comprehend how rotator cuff problems can emerge if you have an understanding of how your shoulder is designed to operate. There are several joints at your shoulder, including the junction of the ball and socket located at the top of your arm bone (glenohumeral joint), along with another joint which resides at the junction of the collar bone and the shoulder blade (acromioclavicular joint).

There are three bones of the shoulder which are called the humerus (long bone in the upper arm), the clavicle (collar bone) and the scapula (shoulder bone) – which connects the humerus with the clavicle. Along with the bones is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the aforementioned glenohumeral joint. This collection of muscles and tendons is responsible for your ability to rotate and lift your arm.

You can encounter problems if your rotator cuff becomes inflamed or irritated, which can occur for various reasons including repetitive usage, age, and participation in sports activities. There are also other issues that can also develop in your rotator cuff, including swimmers shoulder.

Causes Of Swimmers Shoulder

If you are contending with swimmer’s shoulder, this is a term that actually encompasses a group of injuries that emerge from overuse. This can create multiple issues, some of which are specific to the supraspinatus tendon – which is frequently the tendon that is associated with rotator cuff injuries. If this tendon becomes irritated and swells due to repeated exertion over an extended period of time, this can create discomfort, along with an unwanted condition that can also be referred to as shoulder impingement syndrome, or subacromial impingement.

This can occur when there is sufficient wear and tear on this area of your rotator cuff, due to a repeated overhead motion. This can take place as the result of frequent swimming, throwing a baseball or swinging a tennis racket. Or it could develop due to other activities that involve lifting your arm repeatedly such as painting, or gardening, Other potential causes include poor posture, an unfortunate fall, or inadequate muscle strength in the muscles of your shoulder blade.

Symptoms Of Swimmers Shoulder

Anyone who is contending with this issue can experience pain when lifting their arm, or when attempting movement that involves twisting. This condition can also make it painful to reach your arm upward, or make the movements that are necessary for tasks like driving or brushing or combing your hair. The pain can also be accompanied by stiffness or weakness, and the injury can also force you to contend with discomfort while you attempt to sleep at night.

What A Doctor Will Do 

If you dealing with any of the symptoms that were discussed, then it is important that you visit a physician. He or she will conduct a thorough examination in order to ascertain what is causing your discomfort.

Your doctor might also order X-rays or an MRI so that the diagnosis can be confirmed. Rest, anti-inflammatories or physical therapy might be recommended initially, while a cortisone injection or arthroscopic surgery could be the next steps in your treatment if the situation does not improve.

Orthopedic Associates Can Help With Your Shoulder Conditions

It is clear that having your shoulder functioning properly is of vital importance. Fortunately, the professionals at Orthopedic Associates are ready to provide you with their expertise whenever you or someone in your family is contending with swimmers shoulder, or from any type of shoulder pain. Our collection of board-certified doctors supply the vast knowledge that can only result from a combined total of 183 years of experience. This is beneficial in their ability to design effective treatment plans that will guide you back to a pain-free existence.

The specialists at Orthopedic Associates are also dedicated to helping you with a large range of shoulder conditions, including any injuries to the rotator cuff:

  • Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Arthritis
  • Anatomy of the Shoulder
  • Biceps Tendinitis
  • Biceps Tendon Rupture
  • Burners and Stingers
  • Calcific Tendinitis of the Shoulder (Degenerative Calcification)
  • Calcific Tendinitis of the Shoulder (Reactive Calcification)
  • Fracture of the Collarbone (Clavicle)
  • Fracture of the Shoulder Socket (Glenoid Fracture)
  • Fractures of the Greater Tuberosity
  • Fractures of the Shoulder Blade (Scapula)
  • Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)
  • Glenoid Labrum Tears
  • Hill-Sachs Lesion
  • Loose Shoulder (Multidirectional Instability)
  • Muscle Imbalance in the Shoulder
  • Muscle Strain of the Upper Back (Trapezius Strain)
  • Osteoarthritis of the Shoulder
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Proximal Humerus Fracture (Broken Shoulder)
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) of the Shoulder
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries/Tears
  • Shoulder Dislocations
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome
  • Shoulder Separation
  • SLAP Tear (Superior Labrum from Anterior to Posterior Tear)
  • Snapping Scapula Syndrome
  • Subacromial Bursitis
  • Suprascapular Neuropathy
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
  • Winged Scapula


Our orthopedic experts are highly experienced in performing multiple types of treatments and surgeries for the shoulder including:

  • Absorbable Antibiotic Bead Treatment for Osteomyelitis
  • Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Separation Repair
  • Anesthesia
  • Arthroscopic Bankart Repair
  • Arthroscopic Capsular Plication/Release
  • Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair
  • Biceps Tenodesis
  • Cold Laser Therapy
  • Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
  • Diagnostic Arthroscopy (Shoulder)
  • Distal Clavicle Excision (Resection Arthroscopic Technique)
  • Electromyography (EMG)
  • Glenohumeral Debridement
  • HemiCap® Resurfacing
  • Intracapsular (Glenoid) Injection
  • Joint Injection (Therapeutic Shoulder)
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
  • Mini-Open Rotator Cuff Repair
  • Multimodal Anesthesia and Pain Control
  • Nerve Conduction Study (NCS)
  • ORIF Surgery for Proximal Humerus Fracture
  • Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) Injection Ove
  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scan
  • Reverse Total Shoulder Replacement
  • Rotator Cuff Repair (Mini-Open Supraspinatus Tendon-to-Bone Insertion)
  • Shoulder Impingement Surgery
  • Shoulder Resurfacing
  • SLAP Repair
  • Subacromial Injection
  • Suprascapular Nerve Block (Fluoroscopically Guided)
  • Total Shoulder Replacement
  • Ultrasound-Guided Injection for Shoulder Pain

Even if shoulder pain is not your primary concern, we also offer multiple solutions for a wide range of conditions – both with or without surgery. Visit one of Orthopedic Associates two locations or request an appointment today. We are fully committed to paving the path toward a pain-free life for you. 

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