With the warmer weather approaching, you may want to consider swimming as a way of getting and keeping fit. It is always more appealing when the temperature is above zero!
Swimming is generally considered to be a good exercise for those with back pain so is great for those wishing to start getting healthy without aggravating an existing back or neck condition. In the water you should not be adding significant strain to your muscles, natural buoyancy will support your joints, and the resistance of the water will give your muscles something to work against. Many athletes who are injured will use swimming to maintain their fitness levels while recovering as it is generally a very safe form of exercise.
Having said that, it is still important to take care of your back when swimming, just as in other forms of exercise. It is possible to injure your back and neck during the repetitive movements of the strokes if you don’t perform them correctly, so it is important to use proper techniques to avoid injury.
Generally side and back strokes put less stress on the back than any of the front facing strokes, but if you haven’t done backstroke for a while start off gently to avoid overstraining the muscles on the front of your neck and your shoulders. If you have had a previous injury in this area check with your osteopath first to see if this is suitable for you. When swimming side stroke remember to change sides regularly so that you maintain balance within your muscles.
When swimming breast stroke avoid jerking your head backwards and extending your neck to take a breath, instead try to keep your head and neck in line and raise up through your head and back to breathe. Keeping your tummy muscles pulled in when swimming will help you remain level in the water and will give your abdominals a gentle workout at the same time.
During front crawl don’t twist your neck when breathing but instead roll your whole body to the side and avoid overextending your back. When swimming on your front, when not actually taking a breath try to keep your whole spine in line and your head facing downwards. If you have difficulty co-ordinating your breathing try using a snorkel so you don’t have to rotate or extend your neck, and goggles or a mask will prevent you from getting water in your eyes if you don’t like it.
When you first start out a float can help you maintain a straight profile in the water, and swimming with one can help you concentrate on getting fit and build your confidence in exercising. If you go with a friend you can watch each other and check for straightness, or you could ask the pool lifeguard or coach for a few tips.
When you first start do expect a few aches from using long neglected muscles, but if at any time swimming aggravates your back pain, stop and seek advice from a professional.
Start off gently, don’t try to compete with other swimmers and above all enjoy yourself.
If you need further guidance or are experiencing pain while swimming then please book an appointment with us by clicking here.