Swimming Woman

Swimming & Degenerative Disc Pain

By Jackie Manning, ARNP, Strive! Health and Rehabilitation

One of the best parts of summer is heading to the pool to cool off! The pool is a Godsend particularly for those with degenerative disc pain. Although the reasons behind the reduced pain are unclear and up for debate—the important nugget of information here—is that sufferers feel that sense of relief as soon as their bodies glide effortlessly through the water.

The pool seems to work wonders by offering a light, low-impact exercise that can help increase blood flow to the spine, strengthen the muscles that support the spine, and even help to keep off additional weight. In contrast, high impact exercises, like running or jumping, may cause a great deal of pain because damaged discs cannot absorb shock as well on hard surfaces.

Swimming is unique in that our spines don’t have to work as hard to support our bodies. The backstroke is excellent because it promotes a neutral spine and reduces the risk of hyperextension associated with other swim strokes. Beyond swimming, many of our patients with degenerative disc disease also tell us they find relief in light stretching or other aquatic exercises.

If swimming is new territory to you, it’s always best to consult with a professional before starting these exercises. In fact, a great start would be water aerobics, as this can strengthen the core and lower back muscles, not to mention most instructors are well trained and equipped to teach newcomers.

Consult with your healthcare provider and/or physical therapist to determine if these exercises would be a great option for you. Remember to go slow, embrace proper techniques, try to keep your body straight and avoid twisting the spine. Flotation devices can help you avoid hyperextension in your neck or back, keeping you in a natural position as you stay afloat.

The pool invites us to beat the summer heat and feel our best! As always, if you are experiencing degenerative disc disease pain or back pain in general, at Strive, we have a team of experts ready to assist you in any way we can.