What is swimmer’s shoulder?

Swimmer’s shoulder involves tendons, tissues that connect muscles to bones. The tendons in the shoulder become inflamed and swollen, pressing on nearby bones, muscles or other tendons. Swimmer’s shoulder is sometimes called shoulder impingement, subacromial impingement or painful arc.

Inflammation usually affects the tendons of the rotator cuff (group of tendons and muscles around the shoulder joint). These tendons can pressure the acromion, the top part of the shoulder blade bone. Friction on the shoulder blade can cause bone spurs (bony growths) to develop. Swimmer’s shoulder is a type of shoulder tendinitis.

What causes swimmer’s shoulder?

Repeated strain in the shoulder joint irritates tendon and muscle tissue. Tiny tears develop, leading to inflammation and scar tissue. This damage prevents the joint from moving smoothly. Left untreated, swimmer’s shoulder can cause a labral tear or rotator cuff tear.

Does swimmer's shoulder only affect swimmers?

High-performance swimmers may swim up to nine miles a day, putting them at risk for overuse injuries such as shoulder impingement. But anyone who uses their shoulders to repeatedly lift or reach overhead can develop the condition. Baseball players, tennis players, construction workers and electricians are prone to shoulder tendon pain.

What are the symptoms of swimmer’s shoulder?

Swimmer’s shoulder symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness or fatigue.
  • Reduced range of motion.
  • Shoulder instability.
  • Shoulder pain.

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