Aquatic therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for chronic back pain, more specifically chronic lower back pain. In addition to other options, such as exercise therapy and massage therapy, aquatic exercises can be beneficial for individuals coping with neuromuscular and musculoskeletal disorders. Furthermore, those who can't swim will be happy to know swimming skills aren't needed to exercise in the water.
Water walking can start in water that is only waist-high. Walk across the pool swinging your arms the same way you would walking on land. Tighten your abdominal muscles to keep your back straight and to avoid leaning too far forward or to the side. Once you're comfortable in waist-high water, try the same movements in deeper water, and for added workout, try jogging in deep water.
Unlike some land therapy exercises, aquatic exercises decrease joint compression forces and may reduce inflammation. For those who may have difficulty completing exercises on land, aquatic therapy provides a safe, therapeutic alternative. The resistance provided in the water offers a safe, weightless-like environment for addressing strength, balance and postural problems. Water properties, such as surface tension and buoyancy, may allow exercisers to complete movements and extended exercise time they might not otherwise be able to complete on land.
A 2013 study reviewed other information, articles and research examining the effect of aquatic exercise on chronic back pain and found aquatic therapy proved, across the board, to be an effective treatment for reducing lower back pain and increasing short-term functionality in lower back pain sufferers. For long-term results, information gathered showed land-based exercise therapy to be more effective that aquatic. However, for those who may have trouble achieving success in land-based exercise, aquatic therapy provides a safe and comfortable alternative.
If you are looking for further resistance during water walks or other aquatic exercises, hand webs can add resistance as your hands and arms move through the water. Water shoes can also be helpful as they can add traction if you find the bottom of your pool slippery. If you're uncomfortable water walking in deeper water, try straddling a noodle during your workout or wearing a flotation vest or float belt.
- ClevelandClinic.org: Aquatic Rehabilitation
- PubMed.gov: Clinical Effectiveness of Aquatic Exercise to Treat Chronic Low Back Pain: a Randomized Controlled Trial
- Medscape.com: Aquatic Exercise for Treatment of Low-Back Pain: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials
- MayoClinic.com: Slide Show: Aquatic Exercise How To's