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Swim your way to a better back

As an Osteopath, I am constantly asked by my patients what exercise they should do to aid their recovery and help avoid a recurrence of back pain in the future.

Following an episode of back pain, many patients lose their confidence and are nervous about injuring themselves again. Having experienced a prolapsed disc in my early twenties, I know only too well what that feels like but swimming was one form of exercise I could do and combined with Osteopathy, got me back on my feet.

So why choose swimming?

You don’t need to be an expert at swimming to gain the benefits of this low impact exercise.

Being non weight bearing means you are less likely to cause damage and you will have an all round workout while stretching and building strength by the resistance of the water, estimated to be 4-12 times more than doing the same action on land.

Even if you cannot swim or are lacking confidence in the water, you can still exercise by doing something simple like walking through the water, within your depth.

How to swim for a better back

  • Avoid swimming with your head out of the water as this means your back takes the weight of your body rather than the water, resulting in pressure on your neck or lower back.
  • Maintain your spine in a neutral position. If you swim on your front, this means putting your head in the water! If this is not an option for you, even with goggles on, choose a different stroke.
  • Keep your body level in the water, holding your abdominal muscles up and in.
  • Backstroke is good for lower back pain sufferers as it minimises arching of the spine.
  • With front crawl, avoid twisting your neck. Instead roll your body to the side and keep your chin in when taking breaths.
  • Alternate your strokes. This gives you a better overall workout and avoids excessive muscle strain. For side swimmers, make sure you alternate and swim on both sides.
  • Breathing with the correct technique is essential for relaxed swimming. For those that struggle, try using a snorkel or maybe consider having some coaching. Odiham Swim Club www.odihamsc.co.uk run classes for adults as well as children, from beginners through to advanced.

If you are still in doubt and would like one of our Osteopaths to assess your spine and recommend the best stroke for you, or prescribe some pool exercises, we would be delighted to help.

So why not take the plunge and discover how beneficial swimming can be!