Table of Contents
- Swimming Therapy for Back Pain
- Swimming Tips for People with Back Pain
- Pay Attention to the Body’s Response to Swimming
Does swimming help back pain? Yes, it can when the right technique is used. Low impact aerobic exercises offer many physical benefits for people suffering with back pain due to a spinal disease, back injury, strained back muscle or tendon or spinal issues from long periods of sitting or bad posture. Anyone can follow a swimming routine, and in many cases, it is a form of exercise included in a physical therapy program.
Swimming Therapy for Back Pain
Back pain can occur anywhere along the spine or in the muscles, tendons or ligaments supporting the spine. The spine has three sections called the cervical (neck area), thoracic (middle area) and lumbar (lower area). Back pain often develops due to injury, disease and aging.
Lower back pain is common in people who sit for long periods of time, which causes the spine to compress. Swimming for lower back pain and pain elsewhere in the back can bring relief.
Swimming is good exercise and uses the whole body without causing joint stress or the risk of falling. Swimming helps people:
- Maintain joint flexibility;
- Maintain mobility;
- Strengthen muscles and other tissues supporting the spine;
- Strengthen core muscles;
- Improve blood circulation which promotes healing;
- Help maintain or lose weight.
Most people with back pain can begin swimming to prevent or manage back pain. It is a good choice of exercise for people who are at high risk of straining their back at work, frequently experience low back pain or experience a mild injury to their spine or back muscles.
However, swimming can also be a form of therapy for people who experience chronic back pain due to a disease. Swimming strengthens the muscles supporting the spinal column in general and the area around one or more injured or diseased discs, lessening pain. Swimming can help people who have:
- Herniated disc – soft center of a disc cushioning vertebrae bones pushes out through a tear in the harder exterior; when swimming herniated disc sufferers may find some relief because the gentle stretching of the spine and strengthening of the spine’s supporting structures may relieve pressure on the nerve root.
- Degenerative disc disease – this condition is the result of one or more spinal discs drying out or cracking, usually due to the normal aging process; swimming can bring pain relief for degenerative disc disease by increasing blood flow to the spine and strengthening supporting muscles and other tissues; it helps with weight loss or maintenance.
- Sciatica – pressure placed on the large sciatic nerve by something like inflammation can cause pain in the back and the back of the leg; swimming with sciatica can help lessen the pressure on the sciatica nerve, strengthen muscles and promote the release of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers.
Swimming Tips for People with Back Pain
Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for people with back pain, but it is important to swim correctly. Following are some tips for getting the most benefit and avoid aggravating an existing medical condition.
- Swim without twisting the waist and hips, so avoid the front stroke and breaststroke, which requires twisting and hyperextension.
- Learn to do a side or back stroke because these keep the spine in a neutral position and do not require turning the head and neck or arching the back, which puts pressure on the facet joints.
- Do not overdo exercising.
- Swim with slow controlled motions.
- Begin gradually by swimming twice a week in the beginning and increase the number of days of swimming over time.
- Build endurance over time because the benefits of swimming laps include strengthening the back muscles, ligaments and tendons plus improving the cardiovascular system.
If swimming causes more pain in the back, then begin with a guided pool therapy program. This usually involves doing light exercises in warm water, which relaxes the muscles. As the back muscles strengthen, a more vigorous swimming program can be introduced.
Pay Attention to the Body’s Response to Swimming
Swimming for back pain relief is a good choice for millions of people. However, it is important to recognize that it may not be the correct exercise if it causes more pain. There are other gentle exercises for back pain. For example, degenerative disk disease exercises include stretching and flexibility exercises that target muscles and joints in the spine and legs and posture adjustments.
When back pain persists, it is important to see a physician. Swimming is often an excellent exercise for easing back pain, but it is wise to get direction on the best approach for a particular situation.