Water Exercise for Back Pain Image

If you have lower back pain or back pain from arthritis, you may avoid exercise. But research has shown that it’s better for your back (and overall health) if you stay moving. Some of the best exercises for people with back pain are gentle yoga, walking or jogging, and swimming.

Swimming and Back Pain

As you may know, being in water takes the pressure off your joints. This is why swimming, and general aquatic exercise is recommended for people with back pain. Many gyms and YMCAs offer aquatic fitness classes, sometimes called water aerobics.


Benefits of aquatic exercise class:

  • It is low-impact – being in water takes the pressure off of your bones, joints and muscles.
  • Water offers natural resistance – this helps strengthen your muscles.
  • You don’t need to be a great swimmer, or a swimmer at all, to do aquatic exercises – many are done standing at waist level, or with flotation devices.

Try water jogging next time you’re in a pool. Try to walk or jog like you normally would at about waist-level in a pool – you will feel the resistance of the water, and see how it could be a great exercise.

Another benefit of aquatic exercise is that it can be less intimidating than other forms of group exercise. According to Julie See, the president of the Aquatic Exercise Association (AEA),

“Once you’re in the pool, we’re all the same. There’s less intimidation than walking into an aerobics studio surrounded by mirrors. You don’t have to wear a swimsuit. If you’re more comfortable, wear Lycra pants and a T-shirt. And it doesn’t matter if you’re on the wrong foot. As long as you’re moving, you’re getting the benefit.”

The buoyancy of water accommodates everyone. It helps stiff joints, or bones susceptible to injury on dry land. When immersed to your waist, your body bears only 50% of its weight.

Warning about Swimming

Although swimming laps is great exercise and can strengthen the ligaments and muscles in your spine and legs, you should still be careful. Swimming could stress your spine by keeping your lower back arched, or by turning your head repeatedly to breathe as during freestyle.

Athletes have long used water exercise as a way to help recover from injuries, so there are many safe ways to swim or do aquatic exercise. Remember, everything can and should be adapted to your skill and comfort level.

Proof in the Studies

study in The Kurume Medical Journal took 35 men and women with lower back pain and had them participate in 6-month long exercise program. The program included aquatic exercise, in this case, walking in water. The study found that, “Those patients who had performed exercises twice or more in a week showed a more significant improvement in the physical score than those who performed exercises only once a week. More than 90% of the patients felt they had improved after 6 months of participation in the program.”

Another study published in Clinical Rehabilitation examined the effectiveness of therapeutic aquatic exercise in treating lower back pain. Researchers performed analyzed results of studies from 1990-2007 in five databases. Overall, they looked at the results of 37 different studies. Their findings? “There was sufficient evidence to suggest that therapeutic aquatic exercise is potentially beneficial to patients suffering from chronic low back pain and pregnancy-related low back pain,” said the study.

If you are suffering from back pain and looking for a way to exercise, aquatic classes or lap swimming are great options. If you have ongoing back pain, contact us. Or call our dedicated Medical Concierge at 800-890-1964.