Shoulder Issue – New Swimmer and Triathlete

Captured at Brett Darrington on 15 Aug, 2022 by California photographer Cecily Breeding.

Dear Doctor Brett:
My office staff and I undertook a fund raising challenge and entered as a team in a local triathlon. I have been running three days per week for years, no problems. I am a new swimmer and the water is my biggest challenge. I hired a coach and my stroke is coming along, but my shoulders hurt after every workout. Are there stretches or strengthening exercises I can do to help? Newly-Wet in Washington

Dear Newly-Wet:
Welcome to triathlons! The shoulder joint is inherently an unstable joint with relatively small muscles controlling a joint with a huge range of motion. You are smart to retain your coach as you must get your stroke right. I have suffered as you have with aches and pains in the shoulders from swimming and here’s what I do. Try strengthening your rotator cuff muscles. Do this with elastic band exercises. Any qualified trainer can show you these. Swimming brings the shoulders forward and down by tightening the chest and shoulder muscles. I suggest cross training the mid-back muscles and stretching the chest to allow a more neutral balance to the shoulder. Lastly the severe turning-in of the hand as it enters the water can cause friction at the biceps tendon in the shoulder. Try an easy modification to your stroke, keeping the hand neutral and entering the water leading with your pinky.

Good Luck!