Back pain can be one of the most chronic problems that people face. The ever-present pressure, the stabbing pain, the radiating ache can be an unwelcome companion that never seems to leave you alone. Over the counter medications may dull the pain, but soon enough it comes rushing back in. Prescription pain killers come with their own set of problems that are best to be avoided if possible. Back pain can lead to inactivity because it just hurts to move, inactivity can lead to weight gain, and weight gain can exacerbate back pain plunging those who suffer from it into a downward spiral from which it seems there is no escape! Instead of allowing back pain to sink you into despair, take a dive into positive action, get into the swimming pool, and take the matter into your own hands. Swimming may not solve all of your back-pain problems, but it will provide you with the opportunity to do something proactive that can be fun, healthy, and perhaps part of the solution to the problem of your pain.
A Low Impact Exercise with a Big Impact
One of the greatest benefits of swimming is that it allows you to exercise vigorously with very little skeletal impact. Simply being in the water reduces the impact that your steps have on your bones and body by a significant amount. We’ve all noticed that we feel lighter in the water, and the result is less stress on joints, bones, and back. That reduced stress means that you are able to move more easily, with less pain inflicting pressure on your back. Additionally, water provides a built-in resistance to your movements that will help to exercise your muscles while simultaneously reducing skeletal pressure. While running may burn more calories, it also has the potential to do more damage to your joints, and therefore cause more pain to your back. As a result, swimming provides an opportunity to exercise that minimizes the discomfort associated with back pain.
Stronger Muscles Support the Spine
Stronger back muscles can go a long way toward supporting your spine and keeping everything aligned properly, and swimming is a great exercise for strengthening this muscle group. Running may burn more calories, but propelling yourself through the water in a freestyle swim will work a greater number of muscles, including those that give you a stronger back such as Teres Major and Minor, Rhomboid Major and Minor, The Trapezius, Spinus Erectors, and the all-important Latissimus Dorsi. As these muscles are strengthened your posture will improve, your spine will be better supported, and you will have the best possible chance to experience some relief from that persistent back pain. If, in the process, you lose a little bit of weight through regular exercise, all the better for both you and your back.
Don’t Over Do It
This is always important advice when beginning any kind of exercise program. It is far better to start slow and keep going than it is to dive into an overzealous workout program and give up after your pain gets worse due to over exertion. Remember, small changes, sustained over a long period of time, can have tremendous results! Also, it is always important to check with your doctor before beginning any kind of an exercise plan so that he or she can advise you as to any particular concerns that your specific health conditions may present.
Avoid Movements that Make it Worse
Being in the water is great! The worm water can sooth sore muscles, increase circulation, and reduce the spinal stress that causes pain, but certain strokes can aggravate your injuries. A simple rule of thumb is this, “If it hurts, don’t do it.” If a particular stroke, motion, or activity aggravates your back pain, then avoid that particular movement. There are lots of options when you are in the water. The breast stroke and back stroke, in particular, may require motion that is uncomfortable if your back-pain centers in the upper region of your back; if that is the case, then go with a free-style stoke that is less painful. If raising your head above the water, or turning it from side to side to take a breath causes pain in your neck, then swim with a mask and snorkel so that you can keep your head and neck in a more stationary position. It doesn’t matter so much what kind of motion you are making when you are in the water, as it does that you start moving. So check with your doctor, find a pool near you, and start swimming today!