Is Swimming Good for Back Pain?

Child swimming underwater

Back pain can debilitate you from reaching your fullest potential and riddle your life with aches and pains along the way. Although millions of individuals suffer from chronic back pain on a day-to-day basis, there are concrete tools and tactics that can be used to eliminate this. Swimming provides an aerobic workout that strengthens the ligaments and connective tissue within the Lumbar area of the lower back. In conjunction with this, the stability muscles (abdominals, hip flexors, Erector Spinae, etc.) become stronger as the person continues to swim.

How does the strengthening of these muscles help alleviate back pain you may ask? The spine, the lower region in particular, carries the load of tension and weight as we go about our day. Much of this unwanted tension comes from unnatural posture, but many individuals suffer from trauma as a result of a medical emergency. As we strengthen the core stability muscles within the body, we transfer the tension and weight onto the muscle groups in this area rather than the spine. The bones located within the body have a main objective of providing a framework for the muscles, ligaments, and organs to sit upon. The buoyancy of the water drains all the pain and inflammation contained within the lower back and helps the person lead a life free of discomfort.

Cardiovascular Benefits

Swimming also increases the strength of the heart and the cardiovascular system within the body of the swimmer. When we swim frequently, we exhaust and fatigue the cardiovascular system and force it to go stronger in preparation for the next time we swim. When the internal systems of our body are working at optimum efficiency, we help blood and Oxygen flow throughout the body with ease. The increased circulation helps the transfer of vital nutrients and minerals throughout the body which diminishes the pain of the individual.

Many patients who suffer from back pain also have some sort of circulation problem that negatively impacts the area where the discomfort resides. When we begin our swimming regimen, we allow the spine to relax as it floats through the water and helps relieve tension stored in that particular area. The natural position that our body follows during our swimming session helps to promote optimized blood flow and circulation within the cardiovascular system. Frequent swimmers will notice the huge impact that their actions provide for their acute and long-term back pain.

Technique

Now that you have a general understanding of how swimming promotes a healthy back in the long term, it’s important to utilize the best techniques available. People who find themselves swimming strictly to eliminate back pain should avoid swimming in the regular (belly face down) position. This movement can lead to the unnatural position of the spine and lead to more pain in the swimmer after they get out of the water. The technique that is best-suited for back pain sufferers is the backstroke method. This style of swimming keeps the spine in a neutral position with the chest facing upwards towards the ceiling. Using the backstroke will allow you to strengthen and tighten the core muscles while protecting from injury.

Dr. Luis Fandos is a pain management physician and certified anesthesiologist from Babylon, NY.

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