How Swimming Effects the Spine

Like other forms of exercise, swimming has many positive health benefits. However, certain motions associated with swimming may aggravate existing back and neck conditions or result in temporary, occasional or chronic spine pain.

How Swimming Can Cause Spine Pain

While swimming is generally a good form of exercise, it can also be a source of spine pain according to Beverly Hills spine surgeons and specialists. The main cause of spine pain associated with swimming is the repeated movements necessary to actually swim, especially front strokes. The upper spine, including the neck, may also be jerked during certain swimming movements, especially during the process of turning to take in air while stroking.

For instance, swimming the crawl or breaststroke may result in an arch in the back that can cause pain. Twisting while turning in the pool may also cause degenerative damage to vertebrae over time. The same is true for any repetitious movements, whether such movements take place on land or in water.

Common Spine Conditions Affecting Swimmers

Lower back pain is a common complaint among swimmers. Common spine conditions reported by swimmers include spondylolysis (a defect of a vertebra), herniated discs, facet joint injuries and certain infections. One study found that spine-related issues were more common in breaststrokers and butterfly style swimmers due to the nature of the movements associated with those swimming positions.

Preventing Swimming-related Spine Pain

The board-certified orthopedic surgeons at The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration recommend making the following changes to help prevent swimming-related spine pain:

  • Opt for side or back strokes instead of front strokes
  • Wear goggles to help maintain proper head movements
  • Use flotation devices to help with proper form (for beginners or casual swimmers)
  • When front strokes are necessary, maintain proper form (head straight, keeping body level in the water)

Most swimmers with spine pain respond well to physical therapy for the spine and medications to reduce pain and inflammation. In many cases, simply reducing the intensity of swimming activities can help the muscles, tendons and joints to heal.

Are you a swimmer living with chronic pain that makes the activity and other daily tasks difficult? Schedule an in-person consultation with The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration today and allow our world-class spine specialists diagnose and determine the best options for treatment. Call 310-828-7757.