It’s summer and who doesn’t want to get in the water and splash around? But when you’ve got back pain, you can be more than a little tentative about testing the capacity of your back to move around.
Where there’s a will there’s a way, though, so we’ve put together these tips for swimming with back pain. We hope they encourage you to enjoy summer swimming opportunities. The buoyancy of water is a natural fit for people with mobility issues and with some precautions, you can jump right in because the water’s fine!
Shear Forces – Be Aware
While you’re swimming, take care about the types of strokes which compel you to rotate the lower spine and hips. This applies shear force to the lower back and can contribute to disc deterioration.
You can get around shear force by adjusting as follows;
- Instead of lifting your head to take in air, use a snorkel and mask. This will spare your neck and lower back.
- If you can, try working with a trainer to ensure your stroke is true and that your hips and shoulders are in alignment.
The Right Strokes
Some swimming strokes are less demanding on your spinal structures. To be avoided are the butterfly and breaststroke, which both add stress to your facet joints.
Also avoid the backstroke and freestyle, due to repetitive rotation implicating the lower back.
Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about swimming before jumping in, to ensure that you’re ready and aware of what to avoid while you’re in there.
Some call it Aquafit. Some call it water therapy. But therapeutic, water-based activity is the best way to get your body used to swimming with back pain.
With the gentle resistance and buoyancy afforded by water, you get a good strength workout which is also low impact and cardio supportive.
While offering many of the same health benefits as swimming, water therapy applies less pressure to the spine than working out on land. Working out on a heated pool relaxes muscles which are tense, increases range of motion and encourages exercising for longer periods.
Listen to Your Body
The “no pain, no gain” mantra seems increasingly old-fashioned. While we know that exercise is the best thing we can do for our bodies, we also need to listen to them when they tell us they’ve had enough.
Pushing through pain can lead to permanent injury. If you’ve got back pain, you can make it worse by following this questionable philosophy. Instead, listen to your body. It will tell you when you’re pushing yourself too hard or moving your body in a way which is potentially injurious. Listening is fundamental!
Swimming is a great low-impact exercise which can help keep you active while protecting your back from further damage and strengthening your muscles.
Visit your doctor and have a chat about what you should look out for while you’re swimming or following a program of water-based therapy.
Got back pain? Contact the team at Spine Consult NJ. Your healing is our goal.