Health Q&A: swimming and shoulder pain

Dr Mark Porter / 11 July 2019

Dr Mark Porter addresses a reader’s query about shoulder pain that may be caused by swimming.



Q: Since taking up swimming to get fit, I have developed a sore right shoulder. It is now painful to brush my hair or lift anything heavy. I do a slow front crawl. Should I change stroke?

A: Your symptoms are typical of ‘swimmer’s shoulder’ – an umbrella term for pain brought on by swimming, with underlying causes ranging from a simple overuse tendonitis, to problems caused by age-related changes in the joint.

First, check your hand position on entry into the water with each stroke. The most common mistake is to go in thumb first with your palm facing outwards. This puts more strain on the tendons. Instead, keep your hand flat like a paddle. And if this doesn’t help, switch to breaststroke, which is kinder to your shoulders. 

If neither of these eases your symptoms, get assessed by a physio and avoid swimming until your shoulder settles.



The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.