By: Dr. Kyle Knox, Sports Chiropractor in Westlake Village CA and owner of Synergy Health Chiropractic
If you are a swimmer, or have ever taken up the sport in the past, you know that occasional shoulder pain comes with the territory. I can remember the events that led me into specializing with shoulders. Triathlons had become a passion of mine during the 4th quarter of Chiropractic school. Swimming had never been my strong suit, so I took lessons, and like a lot of new triathletes over-trained. Well I started to have pain right on the top and in front of my shoulder. Right away I thought there was a rotator cuff tear or something seriously wrong. I stopped swimming and stressed about the pain in my shoulder because of the field of work I was getting into. The sports Chiropractor I was seeing at the time was also taking care of a lot of triathletes in the San Jose area. He diagnosed me with bicipital tendonosis. In my mind I thought “how can my shoulder be hurting if it is coming from the bicept?” He adjusted my mid back, neck, and then continued to work on the muscles into the shoulder. I was amazed at how fast I had recovered within three visits and started to ask the questions. This led me into a focus of sports chiropractic, and eventually a position of head Chiropractor for USA Water Polo.
I wanted to share this with you because the hardest thing for an athlete sometimes is taking the time to recover or find out the WHY for pain. Shoulders are the most complex and unstable joint we have in the body. For the last two years while working with USA Water Polo, shoulder pain is by far the most common complaint that I have seen. You may be saying to yourself, “sure with all of the shooting and wrestling shoulder pain should be common.” When it comes down to it, water polo players and swimmers alike suffer from shoulder issues mainly due to repetitive stress. With increased repetitions you get laxity. With increased laxity you get dysfunction, and with dysfunction pain/injury is not too far off. It was quoted from Doug Green, Head Coach for So Cal Masters Swim, “The average master’s swimmer will swim 12-15,000 yards per week, which breaks down to 8,000-10,000 strokes per week.” That is a lot of repetitions to put on one’s shoulders. This number is higher than the average baseball player and there is resistance added with every stroke against water.
Is dysfunction purely created from the laxity created? It would take a full book for me to explain why shoulders become out of balance. There is a lot of literature on the subject. I can tell you this; every swimmer holds tightness and weakness in their shoulders and back. Tightness, weakness, shoulders, and the back are integrated working together. The trick is finding what muscles you are overusing and “flush” them properly. Then, you can find the muscles that are becoming weaker and strengthen them for balance and stabilization of the shoulder. That sounds very simple because it is. You get to leave the hard part up to me in finding the imbalance. Most seasoned Olympic players have a daily routine of recovery for their shoulders. They know this increases their performance, decreases the chances of injury, and boosts their enjoyment of the sport.
I spend a lot of time and effort on this subject because it deserves attention. The shoulders and the body have a certain amount of longevity. The more we do the good things for our bodies on a daily basis, the greater our longevity becomes. My name is Dr. Kyle and I look forward to seeing you around the pool deck.