A perfect way to enjoy the summer heat and alleviate lower back pain is to take to the water. Swimming is a low-impact aerobic workout with so many positive benefits – one of these is it relieves pressure on the joints and spine while exercising the muscles in the back.
If you’re looking for some inspiration as to which swimming styles will best improve your posture and back pain, read on to find out more.
Benefits of swimming for lower back pain
Swimming is a great form of exercise as it’s a non-weight bearing environment in which you can exercise your muscles, easing the stress on all joints in the body and increase your range of motion. The hydrostatic pressure of water also helps encourage healthy blood flow to the large muscles in the back, and the smaller muscle groups that help support them.
Before starting swimming or any new exercise program it’s a good idea to get the go-ahead from your doctor and/or physical therapist. As with any exercise, if it hurts, stop what you’re doing.
Want to take up swimming for the mental health benefits? Find out how it can reduce anxiety and stress.
Best swimming techniques for lower back pain
The best swim strokes for people suffering from lower back pain are ones performed in a vertical or standing position to keep the spine neutral and avoid hyperextension. Strokes that exercise the abdominal and hip muscles also improve back health, plus, a strong core is key to maintaining correct posture and a healthy spine. All of your power in the water comes from core strength – if you need guidance on strengthening your abdominal and oblique muscles, we’ve written a guide to the top swimming exercises to do outside of the pool.
If you aren’t a strong swimmer or are recovering from an injury, indoor water aerobics in a warm pool can help condition your core and lower back muscles and prepare your back for lap swimming. The warmth of the water has also been shown to relax tight muscles, allowing for additional range of motion during exercise and may allow you to exercise for longer periods.
Swimming backstroke provides benefits for the entire back, it helps by pulling the shoulders back into proper alignment and strengthens the upper back and lats. The slight hip rotation during backstroke also engages the entire core, while the undulating movement from the kicks activates the lower back and core. Together, these movements strengthen the abdominal muscles and provide added support for your spine.
Pulling means swimming with your legs isolated trailing behind. It changes the swimmer’s position in the water and eliminates any painful movements associated with the flutter kick as it stretches the lower back muscles without hyperextending them. Top tip: try also using a pull buoy to keep your legs from sinking and your body high in the water.
Doing exercise routines such as pool walking has several benefits for people suffering from sciatica and other lower-back pain conditions. Walking is an effective exercise for anyone, but pool walking adds the benefit of not putting any strain on the feet or legs. Pool walking should be carried out in chest-deep water and will build up strength as the water resists movement.
The best way to get the most out of swimming for your back pain is to take it easy and to take care of your technique. The water allows you to move very slowly and softly, in almost any way you want, so find the strokes that are comfortable for you.
Next time you’re heading to the pool, grab your SwimFreak goggles and don’t forget to let us know if this has helped you out over on our social channels.