Health and Fitness

Swimming: all about the benefits and the most common injuries

However, swimming also has its share of risks and it is important to be well informed before you get into the water lifeguard training.

Sébastien Dion  is passionate about swimming. First a swimmer, then a trainer and instructor, he is now a physiotherapist. He therefore knows all the facets of this sport well and invites you to discover them!

What are the benefits of swimming?

Swimming is a physical activity with many benefits, even for people who practice it occasionally. One of the biggest benefits is the fact that gravity is greatly reduced in the water. This alleviates the impact on the body (therefore on the joints) during the practice of swimming. It also reduces the swimmer’s body weight by 10% making them feel light as a feather.

It is for this reason that swimming is highly recommended for people with health problems such as osteoarthritis, arthritis, or even back pain. The reduction in gravity and the feeling of less weight in the water makes it easier to move and reduce pain. These people can therefore continue to practice physical activity while improving their state of health.

A complete sport

Swimming is a very complete physical activity, because it solicits the body as a whole (trunk, back, lower limbs and upper limbs). It allows you to work many muscles in order to develop and strengthen them. Also, unlike most sports, the upper limbs work harder than the lower limbs. In fact, up to 90% of the strength comes from the upper limbs.

A healthy sport

Swimming is a very accessible physical activity, whatever the age or the physical condition of the swimmer. The first swimming lessons are offered to children from the age of 3 months and can continue as long as the body allows.

In addition to soliciting the whole body, swimming practiced on a regular basis is excellent for your health. It reduces hypertension while promoting heart rate and, therefore, blood circulation. Finally, water has positive effects in the treatment of certain injuries. It allows, for example, to quickly reduce swelling since the water creates a pressure facilitating the rise of the liquids towards the surface, in the direction of the heart.

In addition, studies show that a practice of more than 30 minutes twice a week (or more) can significantly reduce back pain. According to some studies, swimming is also the only sport that reduces and prevents lower back pain in children.

What are the most common injuries?

Swimming is a sport that produces little impact on the body. As a result, the most common injuries are primarily due to repetitive motion and not trauma. These injuries are called “overuse injuries”. They are manifested by gradual pain that lasts over the long term.

The shoulders (39%), back (16%) and knees (13%) are the most strained body parts during activity, which puts them at greater risk of injury. However, it is important to note that these statistics mainly relate to the competitive environment. Swimmers who practice this activity recreationally are less at risk.

Shoulder pain: causes and symptoms

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in our body. However, the shape of the bones makes it particularly prone to becoming unstable, especially when performing large, repetitive rotational movements. It is for this reason that shoulder pain is common in swimming.

The front crawl, butterfly and back crawl generally use the full stroke of the arm repeatedly

Over time and repeated stresses, however, this hypermobility can cause joint instability. In this case, the shoulder tends to “slip” more often due to the lack of stability of the ligaments. This slippage can irritate structures around the shoulder bone (tendons or bursa). With sustained swimming, hypermobility can lead to impingement syndrome (pinching of tendons in the shoulder), tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon) or bursitis (inflammation of a bursa).

It is important to know that 30% to 40% of the population have shoulder hypermobility. A feeling of fragility in the shoulders, cracking, a feeling that the shoulder is loose or even frequent pain are all symptoms that can signal hypermobility of the shoulder. These people are therefore more at risk of suffering from pain since the joints of their shoulders can become unstable.

Symptoms of a shoulder problem rarely show up as a lack of strength, but rather as fatigue. The first sign of shoulder fatigue is commonly referred to as drop elbow. It is visible when the arm is out of the water, the elbow is then at the same height as the hand during the recovery phase instead of being high in the air.

Other symptoms may also be experienced:

A daily crunch (not just during activity).

A feeling of discomfort that can appear 30 minutes after the start of physical activity.

A feeling of warmth in the side or front of the shoulder.

Frank, sharp pain is often a sign of instability. Lifting objects, reaching objects placed high up, tying up your hair and even lifting a bag then become painful gestures.

Is it treatable?

Unlike other pain a swimmer might experience, shoulder pain does not go away quickly. However, physiotherapy can be of great help for those who suffer from it.

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