Finding an exercise that maintains activity levels, burns calories and builds muscle is key. Swimming accomplishes all three. Swimming takes all of the stress off of joints. And swimming can strengthen back muscles and core muscles. In addition, swimming has been documented to reduce back pain.
But not all swimming is created equal.
If you are suffering from back pain, you should not begin a swimming regimen or any exercise routine without consulting your health care provider.
If you are cleared to swim, you may want to engage a coach, instructor or trainer to look at your stroke and to be sure that you are not twisting too much and are working efficiently.
The best swimming strokes for pain patients are the breaststroke and the backstroke. Both of these are better than the butterfly and crawl, which utilize a more “twisty” motion.
If you and your doctor decide that swimming is for you, start your exercise routine slowly and increase incrementally. According to the New York Times, “Japanese researchers looked at 35 people with low back pain who were enrolled in an aquatic exercise program, which included swimming and walking in a pool. Almost all of the patients showed improvements after six months, but the researchers found that those who participated at least twice weekly showed more significant improvements than those who went only once a week. The improvement in physical score was independent of the initial ability in swimming.”