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Part 1: Fix 3 Common Problems in Swimmers with Shoulder Pain. A Three Part Series.

Part 1: Shoulder Internal Rotation

I have had to the opportunity to work with a lot of competitive swimmers over the years and shoulder pain is a recurring theme. Typically (not always), these athletes present with one or more of the following problems that are a huge contributing factor to their shoulder pain: limited shoulder IR, Posterior rib and poor scapular control. In this three part series you will find what each of these problems actually mean, and the best way to self-correct the problem.


Limited Shoulder Internal Rotation (IR)


Having normal shoulder IR is important in order to maximize speed, efficiency and limit shoulder pain. In the freestyle stroke, you can break it down to the following phases:


-Entry Phase: Hand enters the water

-Catch Phase: This is the part where your hand is being used to begin propelling your body forward.

-Pull Phase: This is the phase where your body rotates and your hand travels under your body

-Push Phase: The final phase where your hand is under water, this is where you push your hand back up towards your body

-Recovery Phase: Hand comes out of the water and back to entry point position.


Throughout these phases, one thing is evident: we must have plenty of shoulder IR to perform correctly! So how do you know if are limited with shoulder IR? Check out the self-assessment below to find out.


If you are not reaching 70 degrees of true shoulder IR, then it’s a problem. This means you are having some sort of compensation that typically involves poor shoulder blade positioning and then subsequent abnormal shearing forces on your rotator cuff/bicep tendons. This of course leads to pain and unnecessary frustration! Here’s the good news… you can fix it! Check out the videos below for 2 of my favorite shoulder IR self-mobilizations.


The shoulder girdle area can be complex and there are many factors that can contribute to pain. If you continue with shoulder pain even after trying these exercises, I recommend you give us a call at 423-243-0394 so we can take a closer look at it and get you on a game plan to feeling better!

Also, be sure to stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of this blog to learn how to address other common problems in swimmers with shoulder pain.


Thanks for reading!


Andy Johnson PT, DPT, OCS

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