Fixing “Desktop Shoulders”
In the latest issue of “Swimming World Magazine (Sept. 2019),” author and sports specialist Rod Havriluk addressed the topic of shoulder pain in swimmers. Havriluk listed three risk factors for shoulder problems: Overuse, Muscular Imbalance, and Harmful Technique. Overuse problems are usually found in younger swimmers training several thousands of yards daily.
Improper technique is a common cause of shoulder injury that should be fixed by better body rotation that puts less stress on shoulders and engages large back muscles. Several drills help swimmers focus on improving body rotation.
The third risk factor, muscular imbalance, is common among swimmers, as, quoting Havirluk, “every swimmer has more developed musculature in front of the body than the back” resulting in anterior-posterior muscular imbalance. I would add that adults who work at a desk, typically hunched over a keyboard, will likely develop this imbalance whether or not they are swimmers.
Fortunately muscular imbalance isn’t as much of a problem as over-training or poor technique. Nonetheless, better posture is better posture and beneficial to faster and pain-free swimming. Havriluk describes an easy test to gauge anterior-posterior muscular imbalance: Stand with your back against the wall, with your heels, buttocks, shoulders and head against the wall. If you need to pull back your shoulder blades inward to touch the wall, you have this imbalance.
In the following video, Chiropractor Owain Evans from Backspace London shows an exercise called the “Wall Angel.” It’s simple to do, and should help improve your anterior-posterior imbalance. I now do this exercise daily. See you in the pool!
Final note: I mentioned that I work at a desk, like most of you. However, I am able to stand up, with my weight over my spine and feet about half the time that I work. I’ve had some back pain issues, and standing up as work has proven to be quite helpful. I use a Varidesk every day and I highly recommend both the desk and the brand. If you can, ask your employer if you can purchase one for yourself, and explain this may help with stress and injury, keeping you on the job longer--well, that and good exercise like a 3000 yd swim! If your shopping around, search for “Height-Adjustable Standing Desk” as a search phrase.