If you are among the millions of Americans who spend their days awash in a sea of back pain then maybe it’s time you took a plunge into the pool. Because swimming is low-impact, it provides all of the benefits of a workout without the risks of joint damage. Water neutralizes the force of gravity so that swimmers become essentially weightless, taking the pressure off of the spine and back muscles. Swimming also provides a cardiovascular workout that is conducive to a lower body mass index.
Although water “cures” has been lauded by holistic practitioners for centuries, swimming has found its way into mainstream medicine in recent years. A study conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology studied 30,000 men and women over an 11-year period and found that moderate exercise (two to three times per week) reduced back pain by 20 percent overall.
Because it is low-impact, swimming can safely be enjoyed several times a week and, best of all, it is an activity that knows no age limits. In fact, studies have shown that swimming actually fends off many of the problems associated with aging and those who take a regular dip in the pool are physiologically younger than their birthdays may indicate.
All that being said, it is still important to understand that certain swimming strokes can aggravate back pain if they are not performed correctly. Swimming with your head above water, overuse of the breast stroke and excessive kicking motions can put undue strain on back muscles.
Although the methods will vary depending on the source of your back pain, most people can safely perform the front crawl or the backstroke. Using kickboards or holding on to the side of the pool while performing gentle kicks and stretches can also provide therapeutic benefits. Solicit the help of a physical therapist or personal trainer to develop a customized workout that suits your individual pain management needs.
Don’t have a pool? Many recreational centers and workout clubs have indoor pools that can be used free or for a small membership fee. Heated pools are particularly soothing because the warm water helps loosen tense muscles. If you prefer a more structured workout, sign up for water aerobics or aquatic tai chi.
In addition to the physical benefits of swimming, there is also a “fun” factor that can’t be denied. Splashing around in a pool of water brings smiles and triggers happy memories.
So grab your goggles, bathing cap and swim suit and head to the pool, the lake or the ocean. Immerse yourself in the pain-relieving benefits that swimming provides and give yourself permission to have some fun.