Can swimming help with lower back pain?



BSc in Health Studies, Dip.Nut
@EarleLogan2
Ask Earle


16 January 2020

Can swimming help with lower back pain?

For a long time, reaching for the paracetamol has been the go-to treatment for many ailments, including back pain. However, here at A.Vogel, we think that it is really important to treat conditions naturally wherever possible. I'm always shouting about how great exercise is for back pain, and today I want to talk specifically about swimming.

In this blog I cover:

  • How does swimming help back pain?
  • Important tips when swimming with back pain
  • 5 hydro exercises to ease your lower back pain.

How does swimming help back pain?

Many people extol the wonders of swimming and other types of water therapy in the treatment of lower back pain.

First off, swimming is an excellent, all-round workout that helps to stretch and exercise various muscles, without overdoing any muscle group in particular. The water also offers resistance to help build up strength and stamina.

On top of this, swimming is low impact and non-weight bearing so it is unlikely to strain the muscles, or cause them further damage.


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Tips when swimming with lower back pain

To avoid injuring or straining your back further, there are a few things to consider when exercising in water.

  • Lower yourself into the water very gently, and do the same when getting out.
  • Jumping or diving should, unfortunately, be left for twinge-free days.
  • Take it slow – don't try to race the kids or balance them on your shoulders. Stick to some gentle, relaxing 'granny breaststroke' or backcrawl instead.
  • If the problem persists, seek the advice of a physiotherapist or doctor to ensure that you do not incur further injuries.
  • Try water aerobics alongside swimming – see below for ideas!

5 hydro exercises to ease your lower back

Water aerobics classes are available in most leisure centres and can be a good way to stay active when you're suffering from back pain. If you want to practice some activities in your own time, however, here are 5 gentle hydro exercises to get you going.

Walking

Walking through water can be pretty hard-going but it will do wonders for your muscles as it helps to stretch them and ease out any stiffness.

Marching

Stand on one leg and bring the other up to your chest and hold the stretch. Return this leg to the ground and then do the same with the other leg. Repeat this exercise a few times. If you need to, hold onto a wall with one hand so that you don't lose your balance and hurt your back even more.

Raise your legs

Take the previous exercise one step further by doing leg lifts. Standing on one leg, start by straightening the other so that it is 90 degrees to your body. You can stretch further if you are able to, just don't strain your back! If you perform these exercises regularly, your flexibility will increase and you will be able to stretch further.

Superman stretches

Place both hands on the side of the pool, shoulder-width apart, and lift your legs behind you. The buoyancy of the water should support you as you float, so straighten out your legs as far as they will go. This exercise will help to stretch your shoulders, upper back, lower back and legs.

Backstroke

This is a good option for those with lower back pain as it minimises hyperextension (extension of the back.) Other strokes, such as butterfly or freestyle, twist the torso which could worsen back pain.

If you have not done any swimming for a while, or are learning how to swim, breaststroke may be a good option. It is important to ensure you are adopting good technique, however, so, if necessary, work with a coach to help you with this.

So, there you have it, everything you need to know about back pain and hydro exercise. Let us know how you get on easing your troublesome back pain with the help of water...

References

https://www.britishpainsociety.org/mediacentre/news/the-silent-epidemic-chronic-pain-in-the-uk/ 

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Originally published 8th November 2014 (updated 16th January 2020)

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