Mommy, I hurt my arm.
So the other day I was swimming, freestyle, and everything felt fine. I had swam about 1,000 meters, not as hard as I could, but at a decent clip, perhaps 5-10% harder than normal, and all of a sudden my left arm, on the front, in between my shoulder and elbow, but more towards the shoulder, started to hurt. I finished my lap and stood up in the pool, feeling my arm and stretching it in different directions. I was feeling slight twinges when I moved my arm, but they were very slight and unpredictable. I decided to keep on swimming, but every time I lifted my left arm for the recovery portion of the stroke, I would get a sharp pain in that same area, such that I only made it through three strokes and realized my swimming was over for the day. It’s not that it hurt all that bad, but I could tell that if I kept swimming it was only going to get worse, and that I shouldn’t push it.
I talked to my coach and he told me it’s my deltoid muscle. There are three parts to this muscle and it appears I injured the anterior deltoid muscle, which is the part of your deltoid on the front of your shoulder/arm. The three questions I then asked were; 1) how did this happen, 2) how do I get better, and 3) how do I keep this from happening again?
1. I don’t know how it happened, but my coach said sometimes you can strain the deltoid but it doesn’t start hurting exactly when you hurt it. This seems to make sense, because I don’t know how I could have hurt it swimming. After all, all I’m doing is lifting my arm through the air, so there’s no resistance other than the weight of my arm, and I’ve been swimming for some time and this has never happened before. It seems much more likely to me that I strained it doing something else out of the ordinary, and I think I might know what it was. I think it was due to picking up 45 lb weights in the weight room with my left arm, and using my deltoid to then lift my arm up to lift the weight and re-rack them. Or it could totally be something else, I don’t know. If you have any ideas, let me know.
2. Most of the websites out there specify ice and rest, which is what I’m trying to do, although not very well. That is, I’m not swimming with my arm, but I’m still doing other things, and today I hurt it even worse. How? Toweling off after a shower. Evidently I was a bit vigorous while drying my legs off, because it strained the muscle and now it has been hurting a lot worse all day. I can’t drive anymore, and just about every movement I make hurts. Luckily there’s no swelling and it doesn’t hurt if I don’t use it. Oh, and I haven’t yet iced it once…kind of lazy about that. Hey, I’m busy, you know? But I probably should do that.
3. Strength training, and stretching. Here’s a simple video on how to stretch your anterior deltoid muscles. Here’s a dull but correct video on how to strengthen the anterior deltoid muscle.