Swimmer’s shoulder, also called shoulder impingement, does not only occur in swimmers, but is common enough among those who swim a great deal to warrant its nickname. It is estimated that about 90 percent of the complaints swimmers bring to their healthcare providers are related to shoulder problems, and the most common of them is swimmer’s shoulder. 

Whether you are an ardent swimmer or not, Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine is well-prepared to treat you effectively, efficiently, and nonsurgically for swimmer’s shoulder or any other musculoskeletal problem. Contact us soon — we are eager to help you heal.

What is swimmer’s shoulder?

Swimmer’s shoulder, sometimes called shoulder impingement, occurs when the tendons in the shoulder become inflamed and swollen, pressing on nearby bones, muscles, nerves or other tendons. 

Why Swimmer’s Shoulder Is a Common Disorder

To begin with, the shoulder is a very complex joint, designed to move in several directions. Swimming, more than most other activities, uses the shoulders as a primary force to move the full weight of the body through the resistant pressure of the water. Making the shoulder a major force in this way can increase shoulder laxity, weakness, and instability.

Why does swimmer’s shoulder have to be treated?

If a patient with swimmer’s shoulder stops swimming or engaging in other activities that stress the joint, it is possible that the condition may heal on its own. It is unlikely, however, that an individual who swims frequently enough to develop the condition will be willing to relinquish the sport. 

Left untreated, impingement syndrome can lead to inflammation of tendons (tendinitis) and/or bursa (bursitis). Even worse, If not treated properly, the rotator cuff or labral tendons will begin to wear thin and eventually tear, most often requiring surgical intervention.

Causes of Swimmer’s Shoulder

Because of the multiple ways in which the shoulder moves, it requires strong support by surrounding ligaments, muscles, and tendons. Swimmer’s shoulder frequently results from one of the following: 

  • Poor swimming technique
  • Overtraining and fatigue
  • Previous shoulder injury
  • Hypermobility (moving joints beyond normal limits)
  • Using hand paddles that are too large 

Although swimming is a common cause of swimmer’s shoulder, other activities are often associated with the ailment. Athletes, amateur or professional, who play sports in which the arms are repeatedly lifting overhead — such as baseball, tennis, and lacrosse — may suffer shoulder impingement. Those with occupations in which these motions are often required — e.g. construction workers, electricians, painters — may also be prone to this injury.

Symptoms of Swimmer’s Shoulder

The symptoms of swimmer’s shoulder include:

  • Muscle weakness of the shoulder and arm
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Shoulder instability or dislocation
  • Extreme fatigue in the joint and limb
  • Shoulder pain

The pain of swimmer’s shoulder is felt as a deep tissue muscle ache, usually on the outside of the shoulder or arm area. Typically, it radiates to the elbow or neck. Some patients also experience pain along the front of the shoulder. Any overhead reaching worsens the pain.


Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine is well-known for expertise in diagnosis of back and joint injuries. First, we will take a full medical history, including any previous issues with shoulder pain or tendon damage. Then, one of our experienced physiatrists will perform a physical examination, pinpointing the site(s) of pain, checking for any areas of swelling or tenderness, and evaluating your shoulder’s mobility and range of motion.

Depending on the doctor’s findings, one or more imaging tests (e.g. X-rays, CT or MRI scan) may be done to rule out any bone fractures, spurs or dislocations, or torn tendons or ligaments. 


As physiatrists, our doctors are well-trained in both traditional and complementary therapies.

All of our therapies are nonsurgical, so if we diagnose a condition, such as a badly torn tendon, that requires surgical repair, we will refer you to one of our first-rate surgical colleagues. 

It is far more likely, however, that we will be able to successfully treat your shoulder pain in our office. We have a broad range of treatments for swimmer’s shoulder and will take the time to discuss best options with you. Believing that our patients are collaborative in their own healing, we will pay close attention to your preferences and concerns.

In addition to typical conservative home remedies for muscle pain — rest, alternating hot and ice packs, and over-the-counter painkillers, we offer:

  • Recommended ergonomic changes to your home environment (e.g. moving items in daily use to lower shelves so you won’t have to reach overhead)
  • Prescribed oral analgesics and/or corticosteroids to ease pain and reduce inflammation 
  • Ultrasound-guided injections of combined painkiller and anti-inflammatory at the site
  • Targeted physical therapy to stabilize your shoulder, increase range of motion, and provide instruction on how to prevent further injury
  • Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections
  • Acupuncture

Ways to Prevent a Recurrence of Swimmer’s Shoulder

To reduce your risk of a recurrence of shoulder impingement, we recommend that you pay attention to your body’s signals of imminent distress by:

  • Avoiding repeated stress to your shoulder (even if you are an avid swimmer)
  • Always stretching and warming up before swimming, sports, or occupational stresses
  • Making certain you use proper exercise and movement techniques, especially when it comes to reaching overhead
  • Remembering not to overreach natural boundaries or overexert and to rest when necessary

Contact Our Experienced Doctors for Highly Competent, Compassionate Care

We would like nothing better than to relieve your pain and put you on the path to greater comfort and increased mobility. Whether you are a swimmer or not, swimmer’s shoulder is difficult to live with. Get in touch with us today so you no longer have to.