While your bed might be calling your name when you are experiencing back pain, you may want to head to the pool first. When performed gently and safely, water exercises can help to alleviate back pain and prevent future problems.
Back pain is often the result of weak back muscles. A water workout is a low-impact activity that can strengthen those muscles, helping to support the spine. And, unlike exercising outdoors or in the gym, water provides the body with a cushion, helping to minimize your risk of injury.
Being active in the pool is possible at any age, and workouts can be modified depending on the swimmer's fitness level and condition. Check out the following pool exercises to help alleviate back pain, and try them out for yourself the next time you are in the water.
1. Kick Board Balance
This pool exercise can be practiced using a kick board or swim bar (a long flotation dumbbell). Move to the shallow end of the pool where you can comfortably stand to begin.
- Begin by sitting on a kickboard or swim bar and balance yourself.
- Try to keep your spine in a straight line and engage your abdominals. Your legs should be resting naturally. Your arms can be raised out to your sides, or your hands can be on your hips or gently holding the ends of the kick board.
- Hold for 60 seconds.
Tip: For a greater challenge, you can try kneeling on the kick board and holding that position as well.
2. Standing Knee Lift
This popular water exercise can be sped up or slowed down, depending on your preference. In order to build strength and mobility, you can try this exercise without standing against the pool wall for more of a challenge.
- Stand against the pool wall with both feet on the floor.
- Lift one knee up like you are marching in place.
- While the knee is lifted even to your hip, straighten your leg.
- Continue to bend and straighten your leg for 10 reps.
- Repeat on other side.
3. The Superman Stretch
The Superman stretch is simple, yet effective. Used to help alleviate a strained or sore lower back, it is a great warm-up before moving on to more demanding exercises.
- Begin by holding the side of the pool with both hands shoulder-width apart and arms straight. You should be facing the pool wall.
- Extend your legs out behind you, spreading them apart, so you’re floating belly-down in the water.
- Allow the water to support your weight while your vertebrae and back muscles enjoy a full-extension stretch.
- Repeat for 10 reps.
Tip: To give your neck a rest, try putting your face in the water for a few moments at a time, lifting to breathe.
4. Underwater Squat
Squats promote body-wide muscle building and help to improve upper as well as lower back strength. In order to complete this exercise, first go to the shallow end of the pool.
- Stand up straight and place your feet hip-width apart.
- Squat down until you reach a position like you are sitting in a chair, making sure that your knees do not go in front of your toes.
- Inhale as you squat down, and exhale as you stand back up. As you stand up, make sure to engage your core and keep your back straight.
- Repeat for 10 reps. Rest, and repeat for 10 more.
Tip: During this exercise, keep your arms bent and close to your body, with palms facing down.
5. Quadruped Exercise
This exercise can help to alleviate current back pain, while strengthening your arm and leg muscles.
- Begin by floating on your back. If necessary, use a life jacket or have a spotter lift up your trunk for stabilization.
- Create a paddling motion with both the arms and legs.
- Paddle for 10 seconds. Rest. Repeat.
Practicing water exercises like these can help alleviate back pain while preventing future problems. Remember – all water exercises should be tailored to fit each individual’s needs. If an exercise feels too strenuous for you or is causing you further back pain, discontinue. Make sure to go over these exercises with your chiropractor or physician before practicing.