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Taking Care of the Special Needs of Swimmers
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The upper arm strap serves a similar function to the forearm strap used with tennis elbow. The use of the upper arm strap has had an emerging role in the management of several types of shoulder problems in swimmers over the past 15 years.
 
Arm straps have been used primarily in the management of tendinitis of the biceps and impingement of the rotator cuff muscles. More recently, they have also been used to improve exercise tolerance in some individuals with shoulder instabilities.
 
We've recently initiated several research projects to increase our understanding of the mechanisms by which the strap leads to improved exercise tolerance and enhanced swim training with injured swimmers.
The Upper Arm Strap
We use upper arm straps in the management of shoulder instabilities in swimmers. Most swimmers with this problem have improved tolerance of strengthening exercises, as well as better tolerance of stroking, while using the strap. Both lead to an enhancement of our therapeutic goals, and we feel the strap is a great "cheat" to allow us to get more out of the injured shoulder while we work to fix the fundamental problems leading to shoulder pain. Although some teams have used arm straps in a preventative role over the years, this practice seems to be on the wane. More often, arm straps are used in the early stages of managing shoulder discomfort in swimmers. In minor problems, use of the strap may allow the swimmer to complete their workout without additional irritation.

The literature does not contain any controlled studies identifying the mechanisms by which the arm strap works. Instead, most of our experience is empirical - it is based on the subjective comfort level associated with the use of the strap. We feel that the strap enhances the function of the upper arm muscles which cross the shoulder, contributing to improved control of the shoulder joint itself.
 
Our best experience is with neoprene straps (same material as divers' wetsuits) with swimmers. The straps come in regular and long lengths. For sizing and purchasing information, contact Jason Vickers:
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Concorde Therapy Group
4645 Belpar Street NW
Canton, OH 44718
330-493-4210
"Arm straps have been used primarily in the management of tendinitis of the biceps and impingement of the rotator cuff muscles"
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