Studies reveal that swimming and aquatic exercises can help in relieving back pain. Done properly it is a highly recognized form of cardio exercise as well as injury recovery and rehabilitation, especially when dealing with back pain. Other types of cardiovascular exercise/s are great and are recommended for individuals with back pain that is already being managed. This could be light walking and mild aerobics.
However, those in severe pain and more than likely not in the best shape, cardio can be hard on the body
. Swimming is great for all body types, those with weight issues that contribute to their back pain, those that have trouble moving, the young, elderly plus it burns calories, builds muscle, and is very refreshing.
Swimming has been utilized as a non-impact form of exercise
and is recommended for individuals in injury recovery, surgery, and for those where performing high-impact exercise/s like running would be painful and dangerous. The buoyancy
or upthrust of the water counters gravity decreasing the compression on the spine.
Aqua or hydrotherapy
allows cardio activity without increasing or worsening pain, which is very therapeutic. Regular cardiovascular exercises/activities are beneficial for pain reduction. Figuring out and determining the right exercise/stroke for the patient’s specific ailment and length of time those exercises should be done without causing fatigue or increased pain is the objective.
Strengthening the paraspinal muscles
is essential to help with spinal support and reducing back pain. Utilizing the up-thrust of the water, enables patients to exercise these muscle groups more efficiently and effectively.
Wherever the swimming therapy will take place, it is vital that the individual feels comfortable at the location, in the water, knows how to swim
as this puts an individual at ease, not worrying about their surroundings and able to focus completely on their therapy/rehab.
If an individual is not a confident swimmer, the therapy can be done in shallow water or a rehabilitation pool and if cleared with a doctor taking swimming lessons with back pain in mind
could be part of a therapy program. Once confident in the water warm-up in the shallow end or do some walking/cycling before actual swimming.
Strokes for the therapeutic workout will be determined by the doctor, specialist, chiropractor, therapist, etc. These strokes are recommended to protect the spine while keeping pain at bay. Although individual cases are completely unique, and a doctor/therapist could recommend other strokes, the safest strokes found for back pain are the freestyle and the backstroke.
Strokes like the butterfly or breaststroke cause a natural extension/arch in the low back, which can be quite painful. So a patient does not have to lift their heads, which could cause them to arch their backs as well, could benefit using a center snorkel
Regimen Frequency, Length
Like all forms of exercise, especially when dealing with back pain moderation is the way to go avoiding repetitive/overuse injuries. Soreness after the workout that goes away within a few hours is normal. But if the soreness lasts to the next day, this could the body warning the patient they are doing too much. For swimming, therapists usually recommend three days a week 20 to 30-minute workout
. With activity response being used as a guide to progress or decrease the intensity or volume of the exercise. A gradual increase in activity until the patient reaches a workout regimen that fits:
- Condition level
- Physical ability
When swimming or performing any exercise/s the benefits are completely dependent on the individual and back condition. It is difficult to determine how well therapeutic swimming will work, as every individual and the condition/s they are dealing with are different.
Individuals with arthritis or spinal stenosis have been shown to do well using hydrotherapy because of decreased spinal compression
. Each patient might have to make certain adjustments based on their condition and the doctor’s, chiropractor, specialist’s treatment plan.
For example, someone with cervical spine
arthritis or stenosis could have a difficult time lifting their head to breathe. In this case, they could be instructed to swim using only the backstroke or using a customized stroke so they don’t have to lift the head. Every patient needs to try and see what works for their specific condition.
What works for one patient, may not work for another. Find out if swimming could be a treatment option for your back condition.
With this in mind, finding a form of aqua
/swimming exercise that suits you can be achieved.
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