With summer here, a lot more of us will choose to jump in the pool for some exercise. Swimming is a great form of low impact exercise to help increase strength, endurance and overall cardiovascular fitness.

‘Swimmer’s shoulder’ is a general term given to a range of overuse shoulder injuries that develop from swimming. Shoulder pain may develop due to a range of issues including poor technique or weak and tight muscles.

A common culprit is a stiff thoracic spine or mid back. Our thoracic spine plays a vital role in shoulder mechanics (the way our shoulder moves and functions), especially during an activity with a repetitive shoulder action such as swimming. If your thoracic spine is stiff, you may be overloading or irritating certain muscles around your shoulder which could develop into pain and an injury. Those who spend long periods during the day in a seated position (ie office workers, students, long drives etc) are more prone to stiffness developing in the thoracic spine.

swimming shoulderAn easy way to improve the mobility in your thoracic spine is by using a foam roller.

  1. Place the foam roller horizontally across your back and lay with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Ensure your head and neck are supported by placing your hands behind your head.
  3. Aim to keep your butt on the floor while attempting to move your shoulders closer to the floor, arching over the foam roller in the process.
  4. Hold this position for 30 seconds, remembering to breathe.
  5. Repeat this same process at 3-4 points across your mid back and aim to use this stretch before jumping in the pool!

by Jessica Norton, Senior Physiotherapist.