The most abundant substance on earth, water can the best friend of a person with back pain, especially when certain exercises are too painful to perform on dry land. The natural buoyancy of H2O also allows your spine-supporting structures to be more flexible so you can safely target important core muscle groups. There are many forms of water exercise that can be good for back pain. Here are five of them.
Walking is the simplest form of exercise you can do on land or in water, mainly because you can go at your own pace. When done in water, walking can also be an effective way to target lower-body muscles that support your spine by creating just the right amount of resistance. As you make your way from the shallow end to the deeper end until the water gets up to your shoulders, effectively walk your way through water by:
• Keeping your spine straight
• Centering your trunk
• Swinging your arms steadily backward and forward
Back pain can occur while you’re recovering from a medical procedure, such as an alternative to spinal fusion surgery. Santa Monica patients should be sure to consult their spine specialists before attempting to do any exercises on their own.
Work your core spine-supporting muscles a bit more by slowly bringing one leg up as you walk in water. Try to touch it to your chest, then switch legs and do the same thing. You may be surprised at how easy this movement is when done in water. If you’re worried about your balance, make the same movement while holding on to the side of the pool. Once you feel more comfortable, do knee-to-chest stretches as you walk from one side of the pool to the other.
Water yoga can be a fun and relaxing way to get a full-body workout in a way that isn’t excessively stressful on your body. Look into weekly or twice-weekly classes in your area. Many of them take place in heated indoor pools, which can also keep your back pain in check by promoting healthy circulation. Water yoga can include many moves (poses), including the following:
• Big toe pose – Stretch your arms out as you bring up one foot and touch your toe
• Upward-facing dog – Hold on to two foam noodles as you ease your body forward to gently stretch your spine
• Boat pose – Use two foam noodles for support as you ease yourself down in shallow water and let your legs float while using your core muscles to steady yourself
Put your core spine-supporting muscles to work in a gentle yet more challenging way by either borrowing one of the kickboards at your local pool or purchasing one for your own personal use. If you’re new to using a kickboard, start off by simply sitting on one as you maintain your balance. Once you get the hang of it, there are several exercises you can do in water with a kickboard, including:
• Chest/upper arm stretches – While in shoulder-deep water, bend your knees and keep your feet shoulder-width apart while holding on to the board, and straighten your arms as you push it in front of you
• Body position drill – Improve your spinal alignment by holding on to the board as you extend forward and begin to kick
• Backstroke hug – Hold on to the kickboard while on your back as you do a backstroke without arm movements while kicking your legs.
Lap swimming can be a great way to target all your spine-supporting muscles. Just remember to pay attention to proper form. If you’re new to lap swimming or you’re having difficulty because of existing back pain, start with the backstroke or breaststroke. These movements don’t require as much excessive spinal extension.
Water therapy that involves exercises like the ones discussed here shouldn’t be the only thing you do to manage your back pain. Talk to your doctor or Santa Monica spine surgeon about a well-rounded treatment plan that includes appropriate medication, forms of physical therapy you can safely do when not in the water, and positive changes you can make in your diet and posture habits.
If you’re experiencing sudden, severe, or prolonged pain in your back, see a spine surgeon right away for prompt diagnosis and treatment. The spinal health specialists at The Spine Institute are industry pioneers in treating every form of back pain. Call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.