School is out for summer and you’re headed to your favorite watering hole to beat the heat — the beaches, pools, and lakes. This time of year presents back pain sufferers with an excellent exercise alternative that doesn’t usually strain or add weight to the back. Many people with low back pain can properly modify the way they swim to either prevent worsening low back pain, or strengthen the lower back muscles to maintain good strength and muscle tone.
Before diving in, it’s important to understand proper form to prevent back pain while swimming. Try these 3 strokes:
Backstroke minimizes the stress on the spine in comparison to forward strokes, as it is slower and relies on a neutral head in line with the spine. This stroke does require strong abdominal muscles so it is important to ease into it, until your core is strong.
Free style can be potentially dangerous as many people extend the neck, resulting in neck and low back injuries. Combat this by rotating the head and keeping the body straight while coming up for breaths. Avoid jerking the head during breaths.
This stroke is often a favored stroke for patients with spine problems, as it ensures that the head and neck are held still and requires only minimal head raising when inhaling.
Again, without proper form some swimming strokes can cause lower back pain.
1. Do not deviate from the axis (keep body straight from head to toe) and avoid over rotation of the head.
2. Hyper extension of the lumbar and cervical spine can lead to injuries, so it is important to maintain proper alignment.
3. During turns, it is important to not overextend the head and to maintain steady posture. Keep your head tucked in to avoid extending your head out from the body.
4. Investing in goggles can often times avoid unsteady head movements when trying to avoid water in the eyes.
5. Vertical exercises can be beneficial for patients with lower back problems, as this helps maintain balance in the water and allows leg and abdominal muscles to stay upright.
6. Turning on the back and performing small kicks can help strengthen abdominal muscles while contracting back muscles as well.
Like any exercise option, swimming may cause pain. If this happens, it is essential to discontinue and seek advice from your physician. In many cases, swimming coaches, instructors, or physical therapists can help modify techniques to ensure a healthy swim.