olympic swimmer with sunken chest

How to Treat Pectus Excavatum with Swimming

Swimming for pectus excavatum is one of the healthiest and cheapest activities you can do to correct the deformity.

It is a minimal-impact activity, which means that it doesn’t harm your bones or joints in any way.

Other types of exercises can be harsh on your joints, especially if you’re in the adult stages of your life. 

Swimming also has numerous benefits for your psychological well-being

Most importantly, it will strengthen the muscles and joints needed to correct your concave chest deformity.

Swimming requires you to move your entire body against the resistance of the water.

You’ll stimulate muscles that haven’t been activated in years. It works amazingly for both males and females. 

Pectus excavatum specialists rank swimming as one of the best bodyweight exercises for repairing mild to a severe case of the deformity.

Benefits of Swimming for Adults with Funnel Chest

Swimming is perfect for adults who are suffering from inherited pectus excavatum.

Millions of grownups globally suffer from osteoarthritis. It is the most common type of arthritis. It happens when the shielding cartilage that pillows the end of the bones dissolves.

Some of these adults suffer from the funnel chest deformity. It would be very difficult to correct it through physical therapy.

That includes, pectus excavatum weightlifting and other weight-bearing exercises.

These types of workouts can be very painful to the joints. 

Also, correcting the deformity without a surgery requires wearing a concave chest brace, vacuum bell device therapy, intense stretching and yoga

Great for Adults

Swimming is an amazing option for adults suffering from pectus excavatum and osteoarthritis.

Science has proven that swimming minimizes arterial stiffness, which is directly linked to heart problems. 

Additionally, swimming can help in lowering blood pressure in sufferers with hypertension. 

Great Mood Booster

Adults who suffer from pectus excavatum depression and anxiety, will find swimming appealing because the cold-water exposure will improve their mood.

The ability to float in the water can be a great mood booster. 

This is backed up by science

Easy on the Joints

Overweight people with a indented chest can’t handle loaded aerobic exercises like jogging. That’ll cause excessive pain in the joints and shortness of breath.

On top of that, the added hotness and physical discomfort will be a recipe for procrastination.

Swimming on the other hand is perfect for obese adults with an indented chest.

Don’t be misled into believing that the body doesn’t work hard while it is in the water.

H2O is denser than air. 

Researchers have discovered that in-water training puts more stress on the muscle tissue than out-of-water workout. 

What’s greater is that joint pressure is distributed evenly in water.

The pressure on your knees, hips, ankles and other areas of your body won’t be a problem.

That is why swimming for pectus excavatum adults is one of the best ways to correct the deformity.

KEY POINT:

Swimming will help you in non-surgical pectus excavatum correction, without putting excessive stress on the joints. It will improve your mood, reduce anxiety, increase lung capacity, tone your muscles and improve heart functioning. 

Most Notable Benefits of Swimming That Help With Pectus Excavatum

  • Swimming is a very relaxing form of a pectus excavatum exercise
  • It lessens stress and reduces the levels of cortisol in your body
  • It enhances coordination, balance and improves your posture, which are key factors in correcting your pectus excavatum deformity
  • Swimming increases the flexibility of the muscles, bones and cartilage in the chest. These are the parts of the body that are activated while performing various swimming strokes.
  • Participating in swimming consistently can lift up the sternum (breastbone) and correct the protruding rib cage
  • It is a great low-impact treatment for while dealing with injuries or other physical conditions.
  • Swimming offers enjoyable ways to cool off on hot days
  • It is very available and cheap – you can swim in pools, lakes, rivers, oceans. Just make sure that you swim in a safe environment.

Muscles Used

Pectus excavatum swimming is considered as an aerobic physical exercise

It causes activation in the major musculature groups that help you in correcting the incaved chest deformity.  

In swimming you use both your upper and lower body extremities to move through the water.

You mostly depend on the muscle groups in your upper body such as the pectorals (chest muscles) for propulsion in lap swimming.

The leg muscles are very large and require a lot of energy. Energetic kicking will tire you out quickly.

Simple Tip for More Effective Deformity Correction

For treating pectus excavatum with swimming, I recommend you to minimize the involvement of legs.

Save the intense leg kicking while doing sprints and races.

That’s how you’ll improve your conditioning the most. 

Upper Body Development

While swimming, you are developing all the muscles in your upper back and chest, particularly the latissimus dorsi and internal rotators of the shoulder.

These muscles are key in improving your poor posture, which is vital in correcting pectus excavatum without operation. 

For maximal benefits, I recommend you to stretch your tight chest and shoulder muscles, after each swimming session.

Tense and contracted pectoralis muscles get weak over time and damage the surrounding shoulder muscles.

This can lead to injury that you want to avoid at all costs.

KEY POINT:

Swimming will help you strengthen all muscles in your body, especially the postural back muscles, chest muscles and leg muscles.

How to Start

Starting with pectus excavatum swimming is extremely easy.

It is a sport for all age groups and physical fitness and skill levels. 

Before starting, you will need to invest in a pair of swimming shorts and some goggles

Goggles are required because your head will be underwater for the majority of time.

If you’re swimming in the pool, chlorine can be very bad on your eyes leading to diseases.  

2-3 sessions of swimming (swimming in which your upper body takes the lion’s share of the effort) every week would definitely be enough if you’re weightlifting and doing yoga.

Start with 250 meters at first, unless you’re currently pretty good at it.

A few basic tips for pectus excavatum swimming.

  • Make sure you know how to swim (I think this goes without saying).
  • Choose a safe swimming location.
  • Before entering the water, please don’t forget to warm up and stretch your tight pectus excavatum chest muscles and joints.
  • Have plenty of fluids on hand and drink regularly.
  • Don’t overexert yourself if you’re just starting.
  • Go to your pectus excavatum doctor if you haven’t worked out for a long period of time.
  • If you’re having excessive shortness of breath due to your pectus excavatum, stop immediately.
  • The greatest benefit of pectus excavatum swimming is that it will give you a huge confidence boost because you will get used to doing activities without clothes on!

KEY POINT:

You can start swimming without any special preparation. All you need is a pool an some cheap goggles. 

Swimming Strokes

The Breaststroke

The breaststroke is probably the most prevalent swimming stroke. 

Many recreational swimmers are very satisfied with using the breaststroke all the time. 

It is very simple to learn and is considered as one of the basic swimming strokes.

To perform it, all you have to do is use both arms concurrently, and execute half-circular actions under the water.

The legs need to do a whip kick synchronously. 

The breaststroke is amazing for swimmers that haven’t swum before and unprofessional swimmers.

It comes very natural to most people. 

It is amazing for correcting the pectus excavatum deformity because it activates the whole body, especially the postural muscles.

If you do it correctly, you’ll activate muscles that you didn’t know exist. 

Targeted muscles in the breaststroke are:

  • Muscles of the hand
  • Forearm flexors and extensors
  • Rear deltoids, biceps and triceps
  • Neck and traps
  • Entire back musculature
  • Muscles that support the spinal cord
  • Rotator cuff muscles
  • Rhomboid minor and major
  • Glutes
  • Groin muscles
  • Quadriceps and hamstring muscles
  • Calves

I recommend you do the breaststroke most times if you suffer from poor posture.

That can worsen the pectus excavatum condition. 

Beside yoga, the breaststroke is the best way you can strengthen the postural musculature, without putting any stress on the joints and tendons.

Also, you will see great development in your back musculature after a month of consistent swimming.

KEY POINT:

The breaststroke is usually the most beginner-friendly stroke to learn. It comes natural to most people. It helps you strengthen the musculature required to keep a sturdy posture.

Front Crawl Swimming

Front crawl is known as the fastest and most efficient stroke. 

You can also get very exhausted performing it, if your form isn’t right. 

Swimmers that do the front crawl (freestyle) are known to have a V-shaped upper body, wide shoulders and thin hips.

This shows that the front crawl is dependent on a great upper body strength, especially on the shoulders. 

Also, the legs play a significant role in the speed and effectiveness of the freestyle stroke.

Just like any swimming stroke, the front crawl activates the entire body musculature.

I highly recommend you combine the four strokes that I discussed, in every swimming session. 

For best results, I highly recommend you hire a personal trainer in swimming.

You’ll see amazing improvement in your anterior chest wall appearance after a couple of months of swimming. 

The front crawl targets the following muscles in a particular order:

  • Latissimus dorsi (lats) muscles
  • Forearm muscles
  • Biceps and triceps
  • Entire shoulder musculature
  • Pectoralis major muscles
  • Hand muscles
  • Hamstrings and quadriceps
  • Calves and feet muscles
  • Glutes and hip muscles
  • Abdominals and obliques
  • Spinal erector muscles in the back

I recommend you do the front crawl if you suffer from pectus excavatum breathing problems

It will improve your stamina and lung capacity. You’ll feel very tired after each session of performing the front crawl because it is the fastest stroke and requires a lot of energy.

You’ll learn how to inhale deeply when doing this swimming stroke.

For endurance improvement, I recommend you front crawl until you feel out of breath.

Then, take 90 seconds rest and repeat. Do 5 sessions of this.

KEY POINT:

The front crawl helps you get a V-shaped body with broad shoulders. It works plenty of muscles. It is a very tiring stroke that challenges your endurance.

The Backstroke

The backstroke uses numerous large muscle groups in the upper and lower body area.

I highly recommend you add the backstroke if you’re trying to repair the pectus excavatum deformity. 

Combining the four strokes together in one swimming session will provide awesome muscle balance. 

Strokes that require a face-down positioning while swimming use the chest muscles more to propel the body forward.

To make the dent in the chest less noticeable, you need to strengthen the chest muscles.

Scientists has figured out that the major muscle used in the backstroke is the latissimus dorsi. 

However, even though the lats are targeted the most, the chest muscles remain activated. 

Let me show you which muscles are activated during the backstroke.

  • Abdominals and obliques
  • Hip flexors
  • Glutes and groin muscles
  • Quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and shin muscle
  • Hand and forearm muscles
  • Biceps, triceps and deltoids in the shoulders
  • Neck and trapezius muscles
  • Pectoralis major
  • Entire back musculature
  • Spinal erectors
  • Muscles in the shoulders

As you can see, the backstroke also works the body as a whole.

That makes it an awesome supplemental stroke you should add into your swimming sessions, in the journey of repairing pectus excavatum.

It will improve your posture, breathing quality, improve muscle strength and stamina, relieve stress and strengthen your heart

You will also increase body awareness in the pool.

You must keep a straight swimming line while doing the backstroke. 

Add the breaststroke while you’re finishing the swimming session. Aim to swim at least 100 meters using this stroke.

KEY POINT:

The backstroke is a great supplemental stroke to add in pectus excavatum correction. It works the whole body, especially the lats.

Butterfly Stroke

The butterfly technique consumes the most energy of the three strokes. 

It is the hardest one to learn and requires a lot of practice to master it.

If your sunken chest deformity is worsened by weak upper body strength, this is the stroke you need to learn.

It also activates the core like no other stroke, which will help you fix the flared rib condition

It requires a synchronized propelling of the arms and legs to look like a motion done by a dolphin. Doing that necessitates a lot of power and technique.

This stroke depends heavily on a shoulder and arm power.

Every single pro swimmer who is a master of the butterfly stroke has a V-shaped body and broad shoulders. Look at the body shape of Michael Phelps

He made the butterfly stroke his bread and butter.
Body structure largely depends on genetics.

However, you can always increase the size of a specific muscle that is weak and is making the body unproportionable. 

You will strengthen the following muscles with the butterfly stroke:

  • Pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi are the primary muscles
  • Wrist and hand muscles
  • Biceps and triceps
  • Rotator cuffs
  • Entire core musculature
  • Paraspinal muscles
  • Whole shoulder musculature
  • Hips
  • Glutes and hamstrings
  • Calves and plantar flexors

If you’re having trouble with the butterfly technique, I recommend you do this stroke the first thing in your swimming session.

It will consume the most energy and requires laser focus concentration to feel the body movement in the water.

Do it as long as you feel comfortable.

As soon as you feel fatigued, switch to less energy-consuming swimming strokes, like the backstroke or breaststroke. 

The butterfly stroke is an excellent way to increase muscle mass and strengthen the weak muscles surrounding your caved in the chest.

KEY POINT:

The butterfly stroke consumes the most energy, as it is very exhausting to the upper body muscles. It also activates the core, which is amazing if you suffer from protruding ribs.

Swimming for Children Suffering from Sunken Chest

Swimming is an excellent form of physical exercise for people of all ages, including kids.

It helps children suffering from pectus excavatum in significant musculature development at a young age. 

Kids and infants that participate in swimming also have excellent cardiovascular health. It helps them develop healthy lungs, heart, blood vessels and brain.

Usually, children and toddlers with pectus excavatum will have stamina and endurance problems when starting swimming.

Role as a Parent

As a parent, your role will be to inform the personal swimming trainer about your kid’s condition. 

Your kid should progress slowly. In just a couple of weeks, your kid will see fantastic improvement in its posture, endurance and musculature.

That will lead to a correction to the caved-in chest deformity. 

Decreased Chances of Obesity and Diabetes

Also, children who join swimming from a young age have a lower chance of diabetes and childhood obesity.

If your kid likes swimming a lot, the trainer can introduce him to competitive swimming. There, he will meet a lot of new friends.

The kid will learn to function as a part of a team, which is a significant characteristic to have in adulthood. 

Great for Making New Friends

I met some of my closest friends while I was taking swimming classes when I was in 8th grade. We share a lot of priceless memories.

Children with sunken chest who participate in swimming, are growing stronger physically day by day. They will earn a positive attitude and self-esteem.

I am a huge advocate for your kids with pectus excavatum or carinatum to start swimming.

It will help with both mental and physical development. 

It Will Make Your Kid Comofrtable In it's Own Skin

When people with indented chests are younger, they have much less fear to take their shirts off in front of other people. 

Swimming will make your kid take his shirt off. It wouldn’t be such a big deal.

Comparatively, when it gets older, it would be much more uncomfortable to take off the shirt and show his concave chest at the high school pool parties. 

Having excessive shyness in front of members of the opposite sex isn’t ideal. 

Starting with swimming at a young age will help your kid with shyness associated with pectus excavatum.

KEY POINT:

Swimming will improve the kid's overall well-being. Your kids should start slowly, and progress gradually. It is great to make them confident in their own skin. It is amazing if they have poor posture.

Conclusion

Whether you’re suffering from pectus excavatum or not, swimming is a marvellous way to improve your mental state and physique.

It is perfect for people of all ages, ranging from infants up to grandparents. 

It will work your entire body musculature.

On top of that, it will improve your lung capacity.

Breathing troubles associated with pectus excavatum won’t be as occurrent as before. 

At the same time, it is a very affordable sport to take part in. 

If you have a sunken chest, I recommend you mostly do the breaststroke and front crawl.

Those strokes will target your pectoralis major muscles the most. 

Also, they will strengthen the back musculature that is needed for optimal posture. 

The butterfly stroke will build massive shoulders.

Do this stroke if you want to develop a V-shaped body. 

The backstroke is a great overall stroke to use.

It is best to use while you’re getting tired, usually at the end of your swimming session. 

Combine all four strokes in every swimming session, and you’ll notice a fantastic improvement in your sunken chest condition.

You’ll tackle the days standing upright, full of unshakable confidence!

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