If you’re a fan of the water and experiencing back pain, you may be wondering if swimming could help alleviate that pain. The truth is, swimming can be both the cause of and solution to back pain, depending on the individual. In this blog, we’re going to look at how swimming can help or hurt your back.
One of the primary advantages of swimming is that it has a much lower impact on the spine than other forms of aerobic exercise, such as running. Excessive running, especially at high speeds with improper footwear, can cause great damage to the spine. The repeated and sudden shock from out feet hitting the ground resonates right up alone our spine, causing it to vibrate and compress. Swimming removes the force of this impact, making it a far less damaging form of exercise.
In the water, your body moves much more slowly and softly. In addition to this, the simulated weightlessness allows you to twist and move in ways you would otherwise be unable to. This can help loosen up muscles and joints that could be contributing to the pain.
Although being in the water has the benefit of reducing the impact of exercise on your body, the ability to move around so freely can also work against you. Improper form can be damaging to your body in any activity, but since swimming allows you to move in unusual ways, it is much easier to develop bad habits that could lead to back pain.
During most front strokes, the lower back is overextended while the neck is twisting and contorting constantly. Make sure you keep your back as parallel to the floor of the pool as you can. Using a board float can help with this, while using goggles can help you gain greater control of your head and neck, as you will find it much easier to turn your head to breathe. Some people may even find that using a snorkel can make this much easier.
The back stroke is often regarded as the best stroke for people with back pain, because it does not force the back to arch, and generally goes more slowly than front strokes. However, too much of any activity is bad, and overusing the back stroke could lead to spinal disc pain.
The best way to get the most out of swimming for dealing with you back pain is to take it easy. Find the strokes that are comfortable for you, but remember to shake it up every now and again. The water allows you to move very slowly and softly, in almost any way you want. This freedom can work against you however, so you may want to consider finding a coach or class to make sure you start down the right path.