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View Poll Results: Have you experienced shoulder pain while swimming?
Yes, I have experienced shoulder pain when swimming 38 70.37%
No, I have not experienced shoulder pain when swimming 16 29.63%
Voters: 54. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 02-27-2011
terry terry is offline
Head Coach
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,305
terry has disabled reputation

I have previously noted that I have a surgically reconstructed R shoulder (detached biceps tendon while doing bench press) which now feels strong, stable and never a hint of pain. And I have an unstable L shoulder as a result of torn cuff in an auto accident (impact on driver's side door pillar) in 97. They cleaned up things but didn't repair the tear in arthroscopy a few months after the accident. That instability leads to knots in scapular area on a regular basis as other muscles compensate by trying to stabilize the shoulder. I get treatment, usually massage and acupuncture, and pain dissipates. Until it returns.
Not an impediment to swimming though.
The impediment to swimming is my calves and feet which cramp after 100 or so pushoffs.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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Old 02-27-2011
AWP AWP is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 575

I've had a former long standing shoulder (right) problem surgically restored.
Swimming freestyle the TI way, the only way that I knew of, 'masked' any real problem with swimming. It wasn't until I began experimenting with short axis strokes that I first encountered any real pain, but only after my sessions and especially after poor sleeping 'posture'.
It always took a concerted effort to slowly and mindfully practice my movements in freestyle to get me back to pain free swimming.
After another 'flare up' I had had enough and set myself up for something, in total hindsight, that I should have done many years sooner, surgery.
Turns out the initial bad news of a full tendon tear was 'merely' a frayed tendon plus some major league bursitis plus a surprise bone spur, all of which was thoroughly cleaned, scraped and grounded out. The good news was my 7-8 wk recovery would shrink to 7-8 days and was wet in 7-8 days ! After another 2 weeks I was good to go for full effort practice.
I swam 6-10 miles per week in open water this past season plus completed my first 10K OW all completely pain free! I'm even back to short axis practice more so than before, although much more mindfully, with no pain or discomfort thus far.
Good for me right? Well I believe I owe a lot to the way I began and continue to swim (of course a great surgeon and outstanding hospital doesn't hurt) to my recovery.
Incidentally, I practiced super slow swimming right up until surgery day in an effort to assist in my recovery.
So for me swimming helped overall.
If pain in long standing, please get thoroughly checked and do something about it immediately. I'm glad I finally did although late.

P.S. Looking forward to at least a few 10Ks this coming season and more!

Last edited by AWP : 03-07-2011 at 11:45 PM.
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Old 02-27-2011
Louis Tharp Louis Tharp is offline
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: Upper Nyack, NY
Posts: 15
Louis Tharp

Hi Suzanne:

I had surgery in 2005 to reattach my infraspinatus and grind down my acromia which was fraying my bicep tendon. Took six months off, focused on PT with no swimming, came back in 2006 and won two gold and two silver at Gay Games in Chicago, swimming faster than I ever have.

No pain since then despite a lot of fly, IM and distance freestyle. I don't even think about the surgery unless someone brings it up.

I interviewed three docs out of a list of about 10 I got from friends, websites and other physician referrals. I wanted a superior surgical technician as well as an artist. I wanted a surgeon who understood what I wanted out of life and how I intended to use my shoulders for sport. I wanted a surgeon who was excited about repairing my shoulder and like me, was willing to give 100 percent to ensure success.

I chose a very conservative old-school pro sports doc who had recently resigned as the doc-of-choice for a pro football team because they pressured him to get players back on the field after surgery. He performed open surgery and kept me in a sling for four months. A lot of people said I was crazy for choosing him, and he was an idiot for not poking three holes and getting the shoulder moving immediately. I'm not saying other types of shoulder surgery don't work, but I'll be crazy and go to an idiot again if it means getting the excellent results I got.

I heard horror stories about "frozen shoulder". Yea, whatever. He handled all the PT -- he didn't trust anyone else to do it -- and a top-ranked Rolfer was responsible for total range of motion and muscle/joint flexibility. A sports psychologist, who was also a top ranked age-group marathoner and understood injuries, kept me sane during my out-of-water experience.

It may have been a common shoulder injury, and a simple shoulder repair, but it was also a traumatic experience -- from the initial pain, the diagnosis, the surgery, the physical therapy and the re-training to a higher proficiency.

It was a time to create a team of experts who had been through it before, and a time to recognize the importance of understanding how injury occurs, and an individual's central role in healing and health for the long-term.

It was a time to recalibrate the sense of time, what it means to watch fitness quickly decline while structural resilience slowly builds, what it means to redefine anxiety and defer gratification. And most of all what it means to come back stronger, more confident, and more respectful of how our bodies and minds can be very fragile, but also, if cared for, able to far exceed ours and others' expectations.

Louis Tharp


TI Profile
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Old 02-27-2011
CoachSuzanne CoachSuzanne is offline
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 2,453

All, thank you so much for your stories. While I don't have time ot individually address them all, i think having your stories here will help others. I may contact some of you independently with more questions.

Lou...that is perhaps one of the finest pieces of writing I've seen from you. Thank you for sharing.
Suzanne Atkinson, MD
Level 3 USAT Coach
USA Paralympic Triathlon Coach
Coach of 5 time USA Triathlon Triathlete of the Year, Kirsten Sass
Steel City Endurance, LTD
Fresh Freestyle

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Old 02-27-2011
dom22850 dom22850 is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 1
Default Dry Land Training Prevents Injury

I would advise a well planned dry land training program. The problem with in water only training is that the muscles are primarily worked in eccentric motions. This creates imbalances in muscle development which leads to shoulder injuries. Dryland training with some injury prevention exercises will develop the muscles during eccentric and concentric movements leading to equal development and strengthening the muscles.
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Old 02-27-2011
Lawrence Lawrence is offline
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: London, UK
Posts: 804

I don't get shoulder pain but I do go to the gym three times a week, where my routine includes shoulder and back exercises. I don't know whether these help me avoid injury while swimming but I like the idea of being stronger than I need to be to swim.

Last edited by Lawrence : 02-27-2011 at 01:36 PM.
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Old 02-27-2011
AWP AWP is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 575

Thanks for some well put insight, and you're so right in the approach to choosing 'your plan' for proceeding once the decision is made to go the surgical route.
I've never been a huge fan of any surgery but knew what I wanted in my life and how I wanted to lead my life for as long as the Lord would allow and knew I couldn't do that by "dealing with" the pain or rote therapies, shots etc.
Thanks again.

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Old 02-27-2011
Mike from NS Mike from NS is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 551
Mike from NS

No shoulder pain experienced that didn't go away soon after finishing a swim. I was told that if the shoulder didn't hurt ... then I wasn't doing it correctly. Makes sense to anyone?

I did trip over skate toe pick and landing on the left shoulder really messed it up. It became frozen -- did the chiropractor visit thing for a while ... very little improvement. A couple of years later I lost a ski while going over a jump and landed on the same shoulder ..... instant recovery !!! Swimming hasn't had any effect on that shoulder. But the next time I hurt one I may be foolish enough to try a ski jump with just one ski !!!
If you're not swimming; then you should be skiing......
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Old 02-28-2011
Patricia Patricia is offline
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 11
Default Internal rotation of the shoulder on entry

Like others have mentioned the thumbs first entry needs to be avoided to protect your shoulder joint while swimming. At a squad recently there were 7 of us in the water and 4 reported some shoulder soreness. As a physiotherapist and TI coach you need to focus on preventation as your firrst option. Next time you swim,focus intensely on how your hands enter the water,a relaxed hand and arm with the middle finger entering the water first is the key to shoulder protection. A thumb first entry means the
arm bone has rotated on its long axis inwards towards the body and this causes compression of the soft tissues of the shoulder under the bony arch formed by the clavicle bone in front of your chest and the spine of your shoulder blade from the back. Lifting the elbow too high in the swing phase instead of the swing out recommended with TI is another potential cause of shoulder pain.
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Old 03-07-2011
eganov eganov is offline
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 37

Of course I have pain in shoulders - I'm over 50<g>.

You'd really need to understand the makeup of the respondents. Younger swimmers are still flexible and don't have a lifetime of shoulder activity yet. Older, sedentary swimmers probably develop shoulder pain until they are more flexible or use better technique. I would guess age is a big factor.
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