Benefits of swimming for your spine!

Swimming has long been referred to as a non-impact form or exercise, often recommended for those recovering from injuries or surgery.

Swimming is a unique form of exercise because it frees you from the constraints that gravity usually imposes.

This is a huge advantage for people who are overweight, pregnant, arthritic, or suffering from other health conditions that make load bearing activities particularly painful and unpleasant.

Swimming doesn’t put undue stress and pressure on your knees, hips and ankles in the way that jogging and running sometimes can.

How does swimming help with back pain?

When you struggle with back pain, the temptation to rest and avoid exercise all together can be very persuasive! However, that is one of the worst things you can do!

Too much rest can cause the muscles that support the lower back to weaken (atrophy). With weakened muscles the spine becomes destabilised which can make the condition worse.

Other benefits include: –

  • Relaxes the nervous system.

Tense muscles can often be the cause of back pain, at the very least they can aggravate spinal conditions which can increase pain. Swimming releases endorphins, our feel-good hormones, which in turn relaxes muscles and the nervous system.

  • Builds muscle strength to stabilise the spine.

Exercising in water supports the joints and spine and increases resistance. Exercising in water engages muscles that you don’t often use, particularly those needed to provide stability.

  • Relieves pressure on joints.

When you swim, much of your body is submerged so the water supports it. This puts much less pressure on your joints than other forms of exercise.

What are the best water-based activities for pain relief?

As always, when starting any new exercise regime, it is always a good idea to check with your Chiropractor or G.P. to make sure water-based activities are beneficial for your particular condition.

  • Water aerobics

Aerobics in the water is perfect for working on the cardio aspect needed to build muscle strength. It works a variety of muscles simultaneously, helping to build strength and flexibility.

  • Walking

Walking around the pool has huge benefits for relief of back pain. The resistance of the water builds up muscle strength. Try swinging your arms as well whilst walking.

  • Swimming

If you are not a swimmer, it is important to start slowly and build up gradually. Begin with treading water if you are not comfortable with any particular stroke. Consider taking a few adult swimming lessons to give you tips on proper technique, to avoid any further injury.

What is the best spine friendly stroke?

The position and movement of various strokes will affect the spine in different ways, for example:

  • Butterfly and breaststroke force the low back to arch backwards during the stroke. This movement can put a lot of stress on the spinal column and can lead to worsening pain over time.
  • Freestyle and backstroke do not force your low back to arch, however you run the risk of putting pressure on your low back due to the repetitive rotation in the lower back. In freestyle the turning of the head to breathe can put extra pressure on any existing neck problems.

The bottom line

Unfortunately, there is no one best or safe stroke for anyone with back pain, as it will depend on a number of factors, including the underlying cause of the pain, swimming ability, mechanics, and workout intensity.

As the potential risks involved could end up making your back pain worse, speak to your Chiropractor to get advice on what water-based activity would be best for you!

If you would like some further information or to speak to a member of our team please call us on: Hitchin 01462 420077 or Luton 01582 579687, alternatively e-mail us at: or