Getting regular exercise doesn’t have to happen on solid ground since several studies have shown just how effective aquatic exercise can be to relieve lower back pain. It turns out that pool exercise isn’t just for old ladies and synchronized swimmers; it’s excellent for anyone needing an effective way to exercise without worsening your back pain.
Despite the reputation for being strictly for the elderly, there are many good reasons to hop in the pool and get your daily workout. If you suffer from knee or back pain, you’ll be pleased to learn just how effective and pain free pool exercises can be!
Why Pool Exercises?
Muscle Building – The Aquatic Exercise Association recommends water-based exercise programs for several reasons, one of which is resistance. Resistance is a significant component of any strength training exercise, which is a major part of any well balanced exercise program. Building up muscle strength will obviously make your muscles stronger, which will reduce the risk of further lower back injuries.
Pool exercises are beneficial for back pain relief because although water does provide more resistance than air, it feels as though there is virtually no resistance at all. The body feels as though it is hardly working out but really it is working against greater resistance, which means greater muscle building.
Buoyancy – One of the reasons lower back pain persists is a lack of physical activity. Of course the reason many back pain sufferers avoid physical activity is the pain they experience during exercise due to friction of spinal discs or sensitive nerve endings. Exercising in the water provides tremendous relief to the joints and muscles in the back.
Performing basic exercises such as running or jumping jacks is as effective in the water, but without so much friction and shock. When the body is submerged in water it is not supporting most of the weight, which means greater relief to the muscles and joints that hurt most.
Cooling Effect – This should really be called ‘the placebo effect’ because the way it works is quite unique. When we exercise the traditional way—on solid ground in gyms or parks—our fatigue is increased by factors such as perspiration, shortness of breath and overheating. Whether or not this affects our actual physical stamina is unknown, but we do know that the cooling effect allows us to work out for longer periods of time in the water.
Pool exercises helps the body maintain a cool body temperature, increase the heart rate and quickly gets rid of sweat no matter how vigorously we exercise. The more time that goes by without feeling the effects of exercise, the more likely you are continue physical activity for an extended period of time.
Now that you know why you should take up pool exercises that relieve lower back pain, it’s time to get to the exercises!
Below are a few exercises that will build your lower back muscles and relieve back pain.
Side Leg Raises: Stand in the pool so that your feet are touching the bottom. The water does not have to be shallow but you should be able to maintain your balance properly. Raise one leg at a time out to the side and hold the position for 10 to 20 seconds before returning to starting position. Keep your arms on your hips or straight out, to help you maintain your balance throughout each repetition.
High Knees: Stand in the pool with your feet on the ground and slightly apart—a little less than shoulder width apart. Lift one leg at a time leading with the knee, as high as you can. Keep your thigh parallel with the floor of the pool. Return the leg to starting position and lift the opposite leg. Do not rush this movement; it is more important that you lift it high than quickly.
Perform 15 high knees on each leg.
The Chair: While standing in shallow water that goes no higher than your midsection, place your feet shoulder width apart. Bend down until your body is seated in an invisible chair and hold for 15 to 20 seconds. Return your body to standing position and repeat up to 10 times, or as many as your stamina allows.
These are just a few pool exercises that will help relieve lower back pain, your physical therapist can provide you with a list that will help any variety of back pain. At all times you should track your pain, discomfort and breathing so that you can reduce or increase physical activity as needed to avoid injury and continue pain relief.