Why do my shoulders hurt when I swim?

So in the last month I’ve started swimming 20 minutes a day, mostly breastroke since I like swimming underwater more.

Recently for the first few laps my shoulders hurt and make these interesting popping sounds (like I’m cracking my knuckles) before the pain goes away and all is normal.


I was originally going to suggest tendonitis - that’s what happened to my SO, who used to swim at a junior national level until his shoulders couldn’t take it anymore. Your description doesn’t sound right for that, though… its possible that it’s just that your shoulders aren’t used to the motion? Or perhaps your shoulders are coming out of the sockets a little, and you’re not comfortable until they pop back in.

I am unsure about what may be causing this pain when you swim. Be sure you spend several minutes doing some dry-land warm up before you start your swim. In addition, start slowly once you ar in the water. Take three or five laps pretty easy before you begin to push yourself.

You may consider varying your work outs so you can give your shoulders some rest and time to heal. The rotator cuff is made up of several …4 I think, smaller muscles that can be pretty easily injured. You may want to do some simple exercises with low weights that will strengthen these muscles. You would be surprised at how a good, targeted, low weight, cable work out can help you avoid these kinds of injuries. Here is a web site with some interesting information that may be helpful.

Good luck with your work out.

I suggest that you stretch your shouder muscles before swimming. If you don’t know the different stretch routines, they are various. Put one arm behind your back over your shoulder and reach the other arm around to grab the hand. Then pull the shoulder down. Alternate arms. Reach back with both arms and grab your fingers together; then stretch out the shoulders. Reach in front and do the same. Grab one shoulder with the other hand and pull the shoulder to the other side.

The popping sounds are likely from gas bubbles, the same as the knuckles.

It may be bursitis (Instability Impingement from the website linked to above). That’s my problem with my shoulders caused by swimming. It may be helpful to do some strengthening exercises using rubber tubing or small weights as also suggested above. Stretching won’t really help and may hurt.