PDA

View Full Version : Cervical Disc Herniation and swimming



robsaque
June 4th, 2002, 06:03 PM
I've been having numbness and tingling in the right arm for 2 weeks. I got
an MRI last Friday, and it showed that I had herniated cervical disks
(that's slipped disks in the neck in layperson-speak) at the following
levels: C3-C4, C4-C5, and C5-C6 (this last level is where it's worst). I
haven't experienced any loss of strength and coordination (yet). Based on
the advice of a friend of mine that has had the same problem, I've avoided
any exercise that could involve bending or stretching of the neck (so just
stationary cycling for now), restricted myself to lifting no more than 10
lbs. at a time, and am taking anti-inflammatory medication. I'm awaiting a
(timely) referral to a neurosurgeon.

My questions to my fellow Masters swimmers:
1. Have any of you ever experienced this problem?
2. If the answer to (1) is yes, then what sort of treatment (medical and
non-medical) did you receive?
3. Are there any specific things I should be avoiding, swimming-wise (certain strokes, drills, etc? I assume diving is out of the question) and exercise-wise?
4. Before I saw what my MRI looked like (I'm an Internal Medicine MD, so I
could see my MRI was abnormal), I had continued to swim, and actually felt
that swimming helped me feel better. Does anyone out there know if swimming can actually put you at risk for this type of injury?

Physicians, as a rule, tend to err on the side of rest and inactivity for
recovery from any injury, so if anyone has any evidence that states that I can
keep up with at least some swimming while I find out what my course of
treatment will be, I would certainly be grateful for that. I've only started
to get seriously back into swimming since last fall, and was actually
starting to feel good about my swimming, so this recent setback has me
really bummed out at present :-(

Peter Cruise
June 5th, 2002, 02:04 AM
I have a similar neck problem & have coexisted with it for 27 years. Swimming is the very best thing, yes, diving is bad & using a board to kick is very bad- otherwise the inactivity & immobilisation therapeutic response only weakens your supportive neck muscles. I have religiously done light-weight shoulder shrugs & upright rowing free weights to tone & condition those same neck muscles for 27 years & have avoided what 2 specialists recommended- neck fusion c5-c6. You do not want that surgical procedure.

jim thornton
June 5th, 2002, 12:54 PM
There is a fascinating article in the April 8, 2002 New Yorker entitled Knife in the Back by Jerome Groopman that I highly recommend you read, especially in light of your comment about seeking a timely referral to a neurosurgeon.

It turns out that herniated disks are exceedingly common, both in populations suffering back pain and in those NOT suffering back pain. (I think this also holds true for neck pain.) Most cases resolves themselves on their own within six months. The reason: the stuff that acts as a shock absorber and squishes out of the herniated disk, pressing on nerves, etc., eventually gets reabsorbed. Moreover, despite the strong economic incentive to perform operations, the evidence for surgery being beneficial--especially spinal fusions--is extremely thin. Clearly this is a situation where "First, do now harm" should be the operative philosophy.

I also recommend you get a referral to a topnotch sports medicine clinic. I'm currently doing research for an article I'm writing on the active rehab of sports injuries. The advice I have gotten from numerous sources is to find the athletic trainer of local professional, college, or high school athletic team and find out A) what doctor they recommend for injuries impacting sports performance, and B) what physical therapists they use to rehab their own athletes. You'll in all likelihood be given stretching exercises to remove strain and spasms from the affected area; and strengthening exercises designed to bolster the surrounding muscles, which will then do the heavy lifting as opposed to the joint itself. This may sound simplistic, but it's really a very powerful one-two punch.

I know exactly how you feel when you say you're quite bummed out about this. But remember: the philosophy of sports med trained doctors is to help active people stay active. I would be shocked if you were told to avoid swimming or encouraged to undergo prolonged bed rest for your neck. The new credo, it seems to me, is "rest is rust."

In terms of swimming, make sure you keep your head down--this will not only prevent pain, but make you swim faster. The old technique many of us were taught--water should hit the forehead so we can "hydroplane" during sprints--doesn't really work. You will have better body position and go faster if you look straight down. You might also want to work on your body role so that breathing will require less in the way of neck-alone contortionism.

Also, I agree about throwing away kickboards for ever, and you might want to avoid any particularly provocative moves--butterfly and breaststroke both put lots of stress on your neck--until the area calms down a bit.

Also check the ergonomics of your regular life--if your monitor, for instance, is too low or too high, this could aggravate neck pain--as could excessive typing, etc.

Did you do anything in the last two weeks to trigger the current tingling and numbness? For example, volleyball spiking or tennis serving? Excessive typing or computer mousing? Anything?

For what it's worth, I've had many of the same symptoms you mentioned--tingling, numbness, a kind of wooden quality to my fingers--and these all resolved after I stopped typing too much, bought an adjustible keyboard rest (so I can move the damn thing up and down at will and get some variety), and also got a "natural" style keyboard. I know the jury's out on the latter, but it definitely seemed to help me.

I should also point out that I suffered greatly from sciatica on and off over the years, and I have no doubt that an MRI would reveal some heavy duty spinal irregularities in me. However, I've found these symptoms always go away eventually, and the more carefully active I am (that is, after the acute phase has been given a few days to a week or so to cool down), the less I am generally bothered by pains of this sort.

See the thread on hip pain; it's a different injury, to be sure, but the discussion has some overtones you might find useful (including the psychology of sports injury.) Good luck, keep the faith, and I suspect your body will work itself back to health if you give it a chance.

mb windrath
June 6th, 2002, 11:43 AM
robsaque,

Yes, I've experienced a similar situation, with tingling and numbness in one arm. That was back in '87, so it's hard to remember all the details. It lasted a long time and I checked with several doctors. At first they thought it might be carpal tunnel, since I worked at a computer all day long. Turned out that the disk giving me problems was at c6-c7, plus they said I had spurs and narrow spacing between disks anyway. I ended up having a cervical fusion. I was told I should quit swimming. I didn't and still do it to this day and plan to continue. In the process of figuring out what I had, and the rehab afterwards, I learned some things that hopefully will prevent any future problems. The biggest thing for me is posture. I have always tried to have decent posture (even before the problem started) but I'm not perfect at it. Let's face it, it is a major effort to keep it perfect all the time! Anyway, I was talking to another swimmer, who is a physical therapist and he told me I was letting my chin jut forward, like most people do. I didn't quite believe him initially, but as I started paying more attention, I realized he was right. I even got a little scared awhile after my surgery, when my OTHER arm started to tingle. So I paid close attention to my posture, and the tingling went away. Whenever I start to get lazy about it, my body reminds me and then I get better about it again.

I didn't quit swimming, but I have adjusted my stroke. I make sure my head is in line with my body on freestyle (which is my primary workout stroke), so my head isn't UP. I look down and only a little forward. I also try to make sure I roll enough so I don't have to turn my head much at all. I breathe both sides. My arm recovery is slightly lower than it used to be. I don't kick much with a board, but I do it some. It is tiring for my neck. I wouldn't recommend it for you, especially while your disks are out of whack! I did a lot of kicking on my back, with my arms at my side, when my arm was tingling. If you keep your head in line with your body (not too far back and not too far forward), that should be good for your neck. I would also be careful of being on a stationary bike (or ANY bike) - what position is your head in?

I guess if I were you, I would be very aware of anything I was doing and the position it puts your head/neck/shoulders in. I often wonder if I could have avoided the surgery, but I'll never know. I have no intention of having another, though. That's not to say the surgery was bad - I had a good experience.

Janis
June 6th, 2002, 05:50 PM
I have had cervical neck problems in the past and find it is best to have a good swimming posture, head in alignment with the spine, keeping the head down, and looking down. I found using a front mount snorkel very helpful. Along the way I found out how much breathing (or lack of) plays in stamina in swimming. I swam way farther than I ever had before and never felt winded.

The harder strokes were breast and fly because during the breathing the head is not supported by the water. A straight spine with no head bobbing or jaw thrusting to breathe is very important.

Msparks378
June 21st, 2002, 11:56 AM
Dear Robert,

I herniated my C4-5 disc on May 25th. I was mowing the lawn and suddenly my left should and the left side of my neck spasmed and locked. Overnight, the pain became intense and my symptoms spread to the right should and neck and the upper back. I went to the emergency room where they took x-rays. The ER physician diagnosed a neck sprain and sent me home with muscle relaxants and painkillers. Over three days the symptoms responded to rest and medication. I could function again but the cramps and pain where still there. I was also suffering from sharp stabbing pains in my neck. I followed up with my personal GP who proscribed more rest, stretching and more medication. We discussed swimming and he recommended that I restrict my activities to backstroke and kicking. I went to one swim practice that week. I was convinced that swimming would help break up the knots and help me get better. I didn’t last 45 minutes. After one week of this therapy my neck and shoulder had not improved so my GP ordered an MRI for the next Monday. Naturally, since the MRI was scheduled, my symptoms improved over the weekend. I swam about 2500 yards that Sunday. I felt I was out of the woods and on my way to recovery.

Tuesday morning (now two weeks from the initial symptoms) my GP called me early in the morning. He faxed me my MRI report. I had a large extruded disc herniation that was midline at C4-5 and compressing the spinal cord. My GP insisted that I see a “neck specialist” right away. My GP indicated that I could be at a very high risk for significant damage to my cord and restricted my activities to just working and sleeping. I made an appointment with the Orthopedic Spine Surgeon he recommended. The earliest appointment was three weeks out. Since my GP had me scared to death, I called every neurosurgeon in town until I finally secured an appointment for the next afternoon. After examining my films and me the neurosurgeon told me I needed a cervical discetomy and echoed my GP’s statements about the risks. He told me that he didn’t do surgeries anymore but he could recommend a couple of people. One was the surgeon I had already scheduled. I mentioned that I had an appointment with this doctor in two weeks. The neurosurgeon told me that was too far out, and the longer I delayed surgery the worst my situation could become. He walked down the hall and had them move my appointment up to Monday.

The five days were agonizing. I spent the majority of my time researching Cervical Disc fusions and calling every medical professional I knew. Almost everyone recommended that I see a neurosurgeon – not an orthopedic surgeon. I discovered that there is a group of surgeons (mostly orthopedic) that consider themselves to be “spine specialists.” They have restricted their practice to treating spinal injuries and have completed fellowships. They do more than surgery. They also provide rehabilitation and physical therapy.

The gentleman I saw Monday was a spine specialist. He told me no surgery and to resume my normal activities (but no bungy jumping, parachuting or roller coasters). He said surgery was a LAST RESORT and that I had made a remarkable recovery in a short time. Needless to say, I had fully prepared myself for the worse and this news was a bit shocking. I got a second opinion from another “spine specialist” who repeated the same advice – no surgery, resume swimming, and manage your activities according to your symptoms. Both spine surgeons told me that the disc might be reabsorbed and that we should “watch it” but don’t live in fear. I’m back in the water and I feel great. I still have occasional pangs and “flashes” of numbness but I’m getting better.

I learned a few things that I would pass on. 1) See a spine specialist. They have different philosophies. They are more accessible that neurosurgeons and can offer many forms of treatment.
2) Get a second (or third) opinion. 3) Swimming is great therapy. Because I’m a swimmer, I have recovered faster. 4) Pay very close attention to your posture. I damaged my neck because I spend hours on the phone, hours on the computer and I read in bed. All these activities put undue stress on your cervical vertebrae unless you pay very close attention to your neck.

Good luck,

Michael

mister
September 19th, 2002, 03:44 AM
hi all. well, i'm not sure if i had the exact same problem. but i think it's related. i basically went through all the same phases and symptoms that have been described here, ending with a visit to the neurosurgeon and mri machine.

the report: for someone who's 27, it's a more unusual condition. a form of stenosis i believe it's called. my c4/c5 disks were impeding on the spinal canal and intially, pinched my nerve and my right arm became useless with compromised neck range of motion in back. had they seen it in the beginning, they might have operated. but because of my age and 3 months of physical therapy, i have healed mostly, though i'm still building without therapy now. no surgery.

my question: unfortunately, i was preparing for an upcoming big meet in november. i'm no star by any stretch of the imagination, but i'd been making good progress until i'd lost 3 months of decent swimming. even now, i haven't joined my workout group cause i'm probably not ready for the same intensity. but i've had almost a couple months of some solid consistency. conditioning, relearning and adjusting my stroke. i still intend to compete, regardless of results. so the longwinded question ends with - are there things i should just really avoid? can i in fact still dive off the blocks? my old coach mentioned that diving with proper streamlined form, with your head natural and guarded by your hands and arms is supposed to stabilize you, and should prevent jarring. it should be ok. i used to do the jerky pikey dives where i could just burst forward, particularly for breastroke, which is my specialty, actually. so now, i'd like to hear from all, professionals and first-handers, alike, what i really should avoid. am i crazy for even competing again. i'm a little creaky, but i don't know if this means i should not. i'm planning on going to a test meet (test for me, that is) in between, just to see what my new compromised times would be.

any advice for breastroke is also appreciated.

thanks very much

Kevin in MD
September 19th, 2002, 10:41 AM
Be on the look out for hunched shoulders from your swimming. Swimming is pretty much a chest workout and the pecs tend to overpower the back muscles.

This gets us to posture and the familiar swimmer's hunch. I work on this constantly trying to even it out. I had pretty severe cervical problems that were related to restriction in the C6, C7 area.

Got an adjustment from a physical therapist, loosened up my upper spine area. Thereafter I have kept up with it through stretching.

The pain went away and hasn't returned even though I swim just about as much.

Sp be aware of the kyphosis and do what you can to balance out the strength. For me it means not going from the pool to the bench press machine and making the imbalance worse.

Msparks378
September 23rd, 2002, 04:34 PM
Mister - You should consult closely with your doctor. I have not had any problems swimming or competing with my C4/C5 herniation. My doctor thinks the swimming is good therapy for my neck and I'm also a breaststoker but, a disc herniation is very different from Spinal Stenosis.

Good luck,

Michael

gerrymalixi
September 13th, 2009, 12:17 PM
I've been having numbness and tingling in the right arm for 2 weeks. I got
an MRI last Friday, and it showed that I had herniated cervical disks
(that's slipped disks in the neck in layperson-speak) at the following
levels: C3-C4, C4-C5, and C5-C6 (this last level is where it's worst). I
haven't experienced any loss of strength and coordination (yet). Based on
the advice of a friend of mine that has had the same problem, I've avoided
any exercise that could involve bending or stretching of the neck (so just
stationary cycling for now), restricted myself to lifting no more than 10
lbs. at a time, and am taking anti-inflammatory medication. I'm awaiting a
(timely) referral to a neurosurgeon.

My questions to my fellow Masters swimmers:
1. Have any of you ever experienced this problem?
2. If the answer to (1) is yes, then what sort of treatment (medical and
non-medical) did you receive?
3. Are there any specific things I should be avoiding, swimming-wise (certain strokes, drills, etc? I assume diving is out of the question) and exercise-wise?
4. Before I saw what my MRI looked like (I'm an Internal Medicine MD, so I
could see my MRI was abnormal), I had continued to swim, and actually felt
that swimming helped me feel better. Does anyone out there know if swimming can actually put you at risk for this type of injury?

Physicians, as a rule, tend to err on the side of rest and inactivity for
recovery from any injury, so if anyone has any evidence that states that I can
keep up with at least some swimming while I find out what my course of
treatment will be, I would certainly be grateful for that. I've only started
to get seriously back into swimming since last fall, and was actually
starting to feel good about my swimming, so this recent setback has me
really bummed out at present :-(

I feel so much better reading what you all wrote in this thread. I was DEVASTATED just 5 days ago to find out that i have a Cervical Slipped Disc { C2/C3, C3/C4, C4/C5, C5/C6 }. I just joined the IRONMAN PHILIPPINES recently and swam the RELAY 2km SWIM and did ok. I frequently experience neck pains but it was only last week while running that i felt excruciating pain that radiated from my neck to my left shoulder and left armpit. I had to stop my usual 30 minute, 5 km run immediately.

I was told by many that I SHOULD FORGET ABOUT RUNNING and that is TOTALLY SHOCKING TO ME since i really consider running the best way to keep myself lean. I am encouraged however that many people are saying that swimming 2.5km is equivalent to running 10km (in terms of calories burned). Does anyone agree?

I've had neck aches for a long time (maybe not realizing that i already had a cervical slipped disc for a long time) but swimming NEVER made it worse. On the contrary, i felt that swimming made my neck feel better.

I am religously doing TRACTION THERAPY. But i still feel pain on my left arm and the left side of my neck. What other therapies would you recommend?

Thank you for all your help

Ian Smith
September 13th, 2009, 08:29 PM
Just a quick, 2nd hand observation on the surgery aspect – a swimmer in our club who was a US Squash Champion in the 1960’s (a sport hard on the body) had some vertebrae fused and has regretted it.

He swims now because it is the ONLY exercise/sport he can do without problems.

spudfin
September 13th, 2009, 10:28 PM
Unlike many of the posters, I indeed had a C4/5 Anterior Discectomy and Fusion with bone graft and plating on May 18, 2009. This was a result of several injuries incurred over 25 years. Long story short, my symptoms were so severe in the end I had no choice. I swam right up until the month before surgery and picked up right away about 30 days post op with the blessing of my neurosurgeon. All is well so far but in retrospective I may have waited a bit too long. I have some cord symptoms and nerve root symptoms that may never go away. I think the fly and breaststroke are out forever as are kick boards. Anything with neck extension is out. Freestyle is all good. In the balance I think swimming has been great for avoiding surgery, and once I had no choice a great rehab venue.
By the way I favor neuro guys. I have operated with both(as a scrub nurse for 20+ years) and the neuro guys seem to be more proficient. Just make sure you find one that operates with his brain not his checkbook.
Regards
Spudfin

Hooper
September 14th, 2009, 01:39 PM
I, too, have had neck problems recently (over the past year or so). I have swum masters now for 3-4 years, and last year I started getting a burning pain in my upper back / neck area, with numbness down into my elbow and 2 of my fingers. When I took small breaks from swimming, it went away. This past summer I was training for a big meet, and the pain increased to the point where I was practically doubled over at the end of my lane between sets. I've taken 2 months off now, and it's about 70% healed now. There was an article on the USA Swimming site about neck pain in swimming (see link below). After I read it, I think the issue is my head position in freestyle (70% of our swimming is freestyle, although I'm a breaststroker). The hyperextension of the neck when using a kickboard is no picknick either - I'll never use one again. I'm seeing a physiotherapist at the moment who was prescribed all kinds of neck exercises and upper back and rotator cuff work to correct some imbablances. I think someone mentioned already that swimmers have a tendency to have the shoulders internally rotated (stronger chest, front delt muscles than rear delt and scapular retractors. Over time and over 1000's of yards of training, it can lead to injury.

http://www.usaswimming.org/USASWeb/ViewMiscArticle.aspx?TabId=445&Alias=Rainbow&Lang=en&mid=702&ItemId=699

Good luck, and try to avoid surgery at all costs (if possible)!

Woah Nellie
September 14th, 2009, 03:30 PM
Sorry to hear of your issues w/herniated discs. I had the same disc herniations you are reporting, but w/a few weeks out of the water, a lot of physical therapy, and significant stroke changes, I was able to lessen the pain and get back to normal workouts.

My husband is a physical therapist and a masters swimmer, so he came along to the doctor visits, and gave me great advice throughout the recovery process. I went the PT route, and as others are reporting, posture was one of the main things my physical therapist went over; we did lots of McKenzie exercises, especially at first to make the pain less intense. My PT advised getting back into the water when I felt ready. Once the pain decreased, I got back in, but it was slow going.

Also, as many others are reporting, I never use a kickboard anymore, as it puts too much strain on my neck and back. Workouts were mainly backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle w/a snorkel. My problems were exacerbated by swimming freestyle, especially when I took a breath to the left (I'm a lefty, so that's my natural breathing side). I didn't swim any fly that season.

I felt pretty well recovered after all of the PT and swimming modifications, but I also did a major overhaul of my strokes the following summer. At the time, I had a terrific coach who tuned into my specific issues and agreed to video tape my strokes, turns and dives; he then gave me corrective feedback and drills, and this has made all the difference. Body position, posture, and balance were some of the things he commented on. He was a truly outstanding coach, and I was lucky to have him take the time to do this; I think the stroke changes are one reason that this issue has not flared up again.

I wish you luck w/this and I hope that, at the very least, you are out of pain. There seems to be a range of recovery times/options for herniated discs, but some of the themes w/in the responses are similar. I hope they help. I also noticed that you are in Chicago, and I'm in Glenview. Feel free to send me a PM if you want to discuss further. Best of luck to you!

Nell Cunningham

tjburk
September 14th, 2009, 04:21 PM
Dec 4th 2001, Cervical Spine Fusion of C3-C4 and C-5. Used a donor instead of doing a bone graft (Have heard of more people having problems with the graft than the fusion) Lost a little bit of mobility due to the surgery. From the moment I woke up all the pain and numbness were gone...loved it!! Hated the hard brace I had to wear, but got over that. Have played softball, racquetball and swam since without that problem reoccuring.

Have heard that the new synthetic disc replacement is a great option. Have a friend that had it done and was back to work within a couple weeks (I was out for a month and a half).

Would I do it again? Absolutely, the pain and numbness I experienced prior to the surgery was driving me nuts...felt great when I woke up...

__steve__
September 14th, 2009, 05:28 PM
I was told by many that I SHOULD FORGET ABOUT RUNNING and that is TOTALLY SHOCKING TO ME since i really consider running the best way to keep myself lean. I am encouraged however that many people are saying that swimming 2.5km is equivalent to running 10km (in terms of calories burned). Does anyone agree?

Don't be shocked, you might be picking up something better. Not only will swimming keep you lean it would also build some muscle that will make you look better than a runner any day. My wife is very pleased.

kattabox
March 1st, 2012, 03:44 AM
I have been just getting back into swimming after a C6 disc bulge and radial nerve impingement and a T6 prolapse. I am trying to avoid surgery and have tons of exercises for my back. I have found that doing only backstroke has been a good way to start. Just knowing that there are other people who have been able to return to swimming all strokes is such encouragement. I really miss butterfly and turns, but I can see that it may happen for me...

EJB190
March 1st, 2012, 10:53 AM
I'm only 21 but have herniated 2 discs in my lumbar region, in addition to some nerve damage. This is related to a car accident. Despite being healed, I've been in pain for 5 years. This is mostly because of the nerve damage leading a small amount of atrophy, resulting in greater muscle imbalances throughout my entire back.

I swim everyday and find it to be helpful for the muscle pain. I try to stay away from fly because it really exacerbates the problem.

This is a story for another day though.

All I can say is I suggest you wait to swim until you get the OK from your doctor. You don't want to have permanent damage. Luckily, the vast majority of herniated discs heal without surgery.

I wish you the best of luck in your recovery!

swimr4life
March 1st, 2012, 03:33 PM
I have disc problems in my neck and lower back also. What has helped me the most is going to a chiropractor that uses the activator method. I also swim with a snorkel for about half of my workout. The snorkel is GREAT for kicking without a kick board. Good luck.

DeletedAccount
March 2nd, 2012, 04:53 PM
Ronsaque and all;

I can relate, badly herniated L4/5 in 2012 - have managed to almost fully recover through proper nutrition; evolving to a 100% raw plant-based diet. I could not recommend this more to anyone. Nutrition is very neglected and misunderstood at all levels.

Speedy and full recoveries to all.
~T

inge clark
May 11th, 2015, 06:39 PM
I was diagnosed with a form of stenosis 2 months ago and am trying to return to swimming. Lifting my arms overhead and reaching out for freestyle immediately sends tingling and numbness to my arms and hands along with pain to the cervical spine. Anybody else have experience with this? At times, I've managed 2,000 yds, but others, under 1,000. Trying to readjust my head position, but still running into same issues.

coopSwim
June 23rd, 2015, 07:36 PM
I struggle with it and when doing a lot of swimming (for me, 4000+ workouts) it defintely gets wonky and I get the numbness down to my left pinky and my scapula grinds along my back. I've explored surgical options but am a bit leery of them.

I can say what's worked for me - I'm not cured by any means and have to constantly manage it.
-standing desk at work (with a fatigue mat)
-lots of lat work, bands, cables, thoracic push ups.
-stretch out your upper pecs--they get tight from swimming and pull everything forward.
-swim with a snorkel to warm up and for kick sets.
-I'm constantly googling thoracic spine exercises.

http://www.trainingcor.com/2015/05/5-ways-to-improve-thoracic-spine-mobility-in-swimmers-and-why-it-is-important.html

http://www.stack.com/2013/10/22/thoracic-spine-exercises/

http://sprintphysio.co.uk/patient-exercises/back-and-neck/thoracic-spine-mobilising-exercises.html


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qku_-9howgI


-yoga, pilates, trx - I find the more diligent I am about my core, the more it takes the stress off of my shoulders/upper back. I'm too lazy/busy to take regular classes but fit in what I can, as it helps pretty much 100% of the time.
-slow warmup with stretching every few 100s.
-bilateral breathing.

When things get bad, I dial down my yardage and try to do those goofy exercises where you pull your neck back (like to give yourself a double chin) about 5x a day.

I think anytime you can avoid surgery it's a good thing. It's a pretty common injury. For me, I've found that once I get tight, my swimming gets shortened up, thereby putting MORE pressure on the neck. Foam rollers are also essential. I also have lacrosse balls I wedge under my scapula while lying down to work on the permanent knot I have in my infraspinatis area.

Last time I was training for a meet, I found that the more flexibility and core training I did (vs the usual weight training) I made significant speed gains.

I often warm up doing some of those swimsmooth kick drills- snorkel, one arm forward (like setting up your catch in free) and that helps stretch things out.


Deep tissue massage + accupuncture is great too. I've had both good and poor results with PT - I think it depends on whom you go to. The first time it happened they told me to stop swimming for 2 months and just use bands. I ended up just atrophying, was frustrated from not swimming, and had a tough time getting back into it.


Hope that's of use, and don't get discouraged - it's rather inconvenient but manageable.

Curious to hear what works for other people, as I'm just winging it and figuring it out by trial and error.