Elite swimmers with and without unilateral shoulder pain: mechanical hyperalgesia and active/latent muscle trigger points in neck-shoulder muscles

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2013 Feb;23(1):66-73. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2011.01331.x. Epub 2011 May 12.


Our aim was to investigate the presence of mechanical hypersensitivity and active trigger points (TrPs) in the neck-shoulder muscles in elite swimmers with/without unilateral shoulder pain. Seventeen elite swimmers with shoulder pain; 18 swimmers without shoulder pain; and 15 elite athletes matched controls were recruited. Pressure pain thresholds (PPT) were assessed over the levator scapulae, sternocleidomastoid, upper trapezius, infraspinatus, scalene, subscapularis and tibialis anterior muscles. TrPs in the levator scapulae, upper trapezius, infraspinatus, scalene, sternocleidomastoid and subscapularis muscles were also explored. Swimmers with shoulder pain showed significant lower PPT in all muscles compared with controls (P<0.01). No differences in PPT were found between swimmers with and without shoulder pain, underlining widespread mechanical hypersensitivity. The mean number of TrPs for elite swimmer with and without shoulder pain was, respectively, 4.7 ± 1 (2.1 ± 1.5 active; 2.6 ± 1.4 latent) and 4.7 ± 1.3 (1.3 ± 1.3 active; 3.4 ± 1.5 latent), whereas healthy athletes only showed latent TrPs (2.4 ± 1.2). Elite swimmers with shoulder pain showed higher number of active TrPs than swimmers without pain, whereas it was the opposite for the number of latent muscle TrP (P<0.05). The reported mechanical hypersensitivity suggests that active TrPs play a role in the development of shoulder pain in elite swimmers.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperalgesia*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Neck Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain Threshold*
  • Shoulder Pain / physiopathology*
  • Swimming / injuries*
  • Swimming / physiology
  • Trigger Points / physiology*
  • Young Adult