View Full Version : Neck and Shoulder Injuries

June 4th, 2002, 07:49 PM
I swam competitively from age 9 through high school and hated it. Now at age 30, I joined a local Master's team and love it. My friends say that it is my religion. My change of heart is a different topic however. Now I need some help solving my latest "possible" swimming related problem. I read another post about cervical injury and swimming but thought that this was a somewhat different subject.

Over the past three months, I have had numerous whiplash injuries to my neck and shoulders. Both my right and left sides have been affected. I end up in the doctor's office in such pain that I need muscle relaxants, vicodin, a whole lot of icy hot and some beer to move about. I end up taking time off of swimming to let my injuries heal. The doctors think that it might be swimming related. I personally don't think so and don't want it to be (since I now love it). But maybe I am doing something inadvertently.

1) I have been told that I have "beautiful" stroke technique (expect backstroke where I cross over)

2) I never dive in except in meets

3) I alternate breathe except when my neck won't allow it

4) The pool is over 80 degrees

5) I swim three to four times a week 3500 yards at a time

I want to know if anyone else has these problems or if anyone can think of swimming related techniques that would cause this.


June 4th, 2002, 10:27 PM
I too have shoulder problems, at times I can't lift my arms over my head. I found that the worst is when they bother me and I do kick with a flutter board. I try to do as much kick as I can without a flutter board. I also find that backstroke will really bother them.
Hope thats some help


June 4th, 2002, 10:40 PM
Iíve read quite a bit about neck injuries since Iíve developed one. I canít offer specific diagnoses or advice without doing a medical history and physical exam, but I do have some thoughts. Re. Whiplash injuries Ė they seem to be mostly due to muscular tears or trauma to the ligaments and tendons surrounding the neck. However, Iíd like to know the following:
1. Have you had any imaging studies of your cervical spine and shoulders (MRI, CT scan) since youíve had this injury?
2. Were you having any pain prior to the whiplash injuries?
3. Did the whiplash injuries involve you hitting any part of a motor vehicle (dash, steering wheel, etc.)?
If the answer to 1 was ďno,Ē Iíd get an imaging study. Pain could be related to a herniated disc. Pain could also be related to a shoulder impingement (Iíve had that in the past). However, thatís less likely to be bilateral.
If the answer to 2 was yes, that still wouldnít rule out a disc problem. However, the whiplash injuries make me worry a bit about that, as does the need for vicodin and muscle relaxants. Finally, if the answer to 3 was ďyesĒ, and you havenít gotten an imaging study, I would press your physician for one. I would also ask to be evaluated by a neurologist, physical medicine & rehab physician, or sports medicine specialist.

Kevin in MD
June 5th, 2002, 03:03 PM
I've found that to get good results from medical folks on shoulder issues with regard to swimming; you have to come preloaded with lots of good technical information about your situation.

What I mean is, not walking into the office saying my shoulder hurts. I mean walking in saying well, I have poor internal rotation in my shoulders and have a recurrent problem with pain on the right side of my neck. It hurts on the right side when I turn left or right, as far as I can tell it's between C6 and C7.

You may have already guessed the correct answer isn't to take some muscle relaxers and ice it for a few days. You'll be back in the office very soon in that case.

The correct answer would be something like, let's find out exactly what the problem is, (imaging as suggested elsewhere) and now let's figure out what you're doing to make this come up. Since you're a swimmer with shoulder and neck problems we will look at swimming first. This part may not be with a doctor at all but can very well be with a physical therapist.

Also please be aware that your lane mates saying you have good technique doesn't exactly pass over swimming as the problem.

Not your lane mates in particular but in general swimmers are not tuned into what ways we expose ourselves to injury by swimming. Only those that have taken a particular interest for themselves or possible medical practitioners who also swim are likely to know enough to give good answers on the question. Your lane mates may be these people, but be aware they may not.

Laslty, my biomechanical questions about swimming usually start here


There's lots of good information there.

Find the good medical people in your area, there is certainly someone in Chicago that can help you.

June 6th, 2002, 12:44 PM
I too have experienced neck and shoulder injuries due to poor swimming technique. However, I have now changed my stroke to a much lower head position, eyes focused on bottom of pool rather than ahead, and I've been working on body rotation (for freestyle). Further information on this technique can be found on the total immersion website: www.totalimmersion.net

I've found that this body position puts less strain on both neck and shoulders.
Hope this helps!


June 15th, 2002, 11:16 AM
Thanks for all of your advice - I saw a physical therapist this week and am pleased with what she had to say. Swimming is actually helping.

She believes that I injured myself doing a very bad yoga move while in bed. The injury never properly healed because of 2 main things - very poor posture and head alignment and weak lower and middle trapezoid? muscles. According to her, I only use my upper trap to life my arm when you should use all three. I now have fancy little exercises to do to build up those muscles. She is a swimmer and thinks that swimming is helping build those muscles. Breastroke doesn't help because I generally hold my head as if I am breathing while doing the breastroke (yes I look like a turtle all day long). As you already probably know, this is not proper head position.

Thanks again.

October 28th, 2009, 12:23 PM
on the internet you can find several neck traction machines that are activated by pumps. they have helped me to continue to my swimming training despite a bad neck.
it sounds simple but i also find that ice helps as much as anitimflamatories.