17 February 2020
Careless diving places a lot of pressure on the spine. Photo: Reuters
Careless diving places a lot of pressure on the spine. Photo: Reuters

Bad swimming postures can cause rather than ease pain

Swimming is a favorite summertime sport. Many arthritis patients take swimming as a form of therapy, believing that it would not hurt their muscles and joints.

The truth is, wrong swimming postures or swimming for too long can often cause pain.

The most common water sports injuries include twisting, dislocation of joints, cuts and bruises. Affected areas are mostly shoulders, knees, ankles, elbows and the back.


The most commonly injured area. Injuries happen mainly to freestyle and breaststroke swimmers.

While swimming freestyle, swimmers often have to raise the arms over the head, creating friction between shoulder muscles and soft tissues. When it is done repeatedly, synovitis may develop from congestion or swelling of tendons or joint capsules. This will greatly affect the shoulder range of motion.

Exaggerated pull when doing breaststrokes is another common mistake. If the pull is too wide and the shoulders are always tightened up, the shoulders will be strained. Gradually, the swollen tendons will create friction against bones. Not only will it cause pain, the friction may also tear the tendons apart.


Knee and neck injuries are common when doing breaststrokes as swimmers are required to bend their knees, close their legs and paddle through the water. During the process, the medial collateral ligament often gets twisted due to external force.

The back:

Back injuries commonly occur when doing breaststrokes and butterfly strokes.

Since the waist and the back often have to stretch backward, if the pull is too exaggerated, the muscles nearby will get damaged over time. It may even hurt the facet joints of the spine.’


Elbows are more commonly injured during breaststroke and butterfly stroke swimming. Since the swimmer is required to bend and lift the elbow then to paddle through the water with the arms stretching backward and downward in order to propel the body, such actions may lead to forearm tendinitis.

The neck:

Many people like to dive right away without paying attention to the depth of the pool. It can actually be fatal in case the head hits the ground. Even if the water is deep enough, careless diving places a lot of pressure on the spine and may cause permanent trauma and repercussions.

Neck injury may also happen when the swimmer turns to breathe. If their head is held too high or stays twisted, the muscles around the neck will get tightened or sprained. Cervical dislocation is likely to happen.


Ankles that bend excessively downward may lead to anterior tibialis tendonitis.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 24

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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