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Is Swimming Good for You if You Suffer from Shoulder Pain

Image of a towel, flip flows and swim goggles with a sign saying "Time to Swim"

Swimming is a fine daily habit which keeps your joints supple and muscles loose, but is swimming good for you if you suffer from shoulder pain?

It’s great for your heart and lungs and above all, it maintains your independence and adds social interaction to your routine.

It’s important – like it is in any sport you might do on a regular basis – to vary your training, otherwise shoulder aches and pains are inevitable. It’s not possible to get into a swimming pool for an hour every day and use the same arm motion to propel you through the water without getting some kind of shoulder problem eventually.

The swimming is fine, just change the stroke you do from one day to the next.

My big tip when it comes to swimming with shoulder pain is to always vary the type of exercise you do.

As you’ve just noticed from the mention of how to avoid swimming injuries, it’s possible to change an activity within an activity, so to speak, and it will help you keep active and healthy and avoid shoulder pain while swimming.

Perhaps you could spend a little more time and effort putting together a plan that will work multiple muscle groups, improve balance, increase core muscle control (around your back), still improve cardio-vascular fitness (heart and lungs) and, just as importantly, give vital shoulder joints a break from that repetitive motion.

Get this right and your chances of suffering from shoulder pain while swimming will reduce hugely.

Combining running with swimming will make a big difference to your health and outlook.

Why Swimming Is Great For Your Overall Fitness

  • It’s something you can do on your own.

  • You don’t have to worry about the dark nights or pairing up with someone to stay safe (as you might do with running or cycling).

  • It’s relatively inexpensive for the health benefits you get.

  • One of the biggest benefits of swimming, particularly for the 50+ age group, is that the buoyancy of the water makes it friendly to ankle, knee and back joints because there’s almost none of the stress or impact which might happen if you were walking or running.

  • Swimming is a low-impact exercise that works all the muscles in the body. That’s why many injured athletes turn to the pool to maintain fitness and rehabilitate an injury at the same time. It’s also a healthy physically activity for people in their youth to older age.

Five Ways To Avoid Shoulder Pain While Swimming

Image of a woman doing the backstroke in an indoor pool.

Shoulder injuries are the most common injury in swimming, and a true swimming stroke technique is so important when it comes to injury prevention.

Get Your Breathing Right.

Image of the sky with two branches filled with flowers in the shape of human lungs.

The ability to breathe comfortably on both sides is important when it comes to the freestyle stroke. By changing sides, you are equalizing muscle development and achieving symmetry. It also allows for smoother and more even strokes, the balance from using both shoulders will help avoid shoulder pain. It may feel awkward on the opposite side you would normally breathe at first, but it will soon become natural and lead to a more efficient stroke.


Image of a woman in two different postures. One representing poor, and one representing proper posture.

Your posture out of the pool can affect your posture in the pool. If you have tightness in the chest muscles or rounded shoulder posture, this can put you more at risk of suffering from shoulder pain. The shoulders should be back and the chest forward during a freestyle stroke. Shoulder pain occurs when the tendons become pinched, irritated, and inflamed.


The kick should originate from the hips. In other words, kick your legs, not your feet. There should be a slight bend in your knee and your toes will naturally point.

Catch and Pull

The ‘catch’ is when the hand enters the water. You are catching the water, with your wrist slightly bent. If the thumb enters the water first, it can cause the shoulder to internally rotate and can lead to shoulder pain.

The ‘pull’ is the when the arm pulls through the water to move the body forward. The hand and arm should enter the water as an extension of the shoulder. If the arm crosses too wide, it can easily lead to shoulder pain.

Warm Up Correctly

Just like before any physical activity, a proper warm-up and stretching exercises are important to reduce the likelihood of suffering shoulder pain while swimming. Strengthening the shoulder will bring a more efficient stroke. Alternating different strokes prevents repetitive motion that can lead to overuse injuries and bring on shoulder pain.

Avoiding Shoulder Pain Altogether

3 happy and healthy women smiling for a picture outdoors.

If you are suffering with regular shoulder pain, or it is preventing you from swimming freely, then you are probably worrying about what might happen if things continue to get worse…

You may be hoping that things fix themselves, but you are very aware of the risk of surgery in your future, but you aren’t sure what to do to fix the problem to allow you to swim freely without shoulder pain.

At Doylestown Sports Medicine Center, we have helped thousands of patients, and helped hundreds of people just like you who are experiencing daily shoulder pain and unable to move freely.

If you want to get some personalized advice, we offer you the opportunity to speak to a member of our physical therapy team on a 1:1 basis in our clinic.

In this FREE Consultations, we'll discuss your foot pain, and identify the underlying cause, as well as outlining what you natural, drug-free solutions are available to you.



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