Survive the Philly heat with water exercises to relieve back pain

Survive the Philly heat with water exercises to relieve back painThe months of July and August can be hot and muggy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. To beat the heat, many people from the City of Brotherly Love head over to the Jersey Shore to water ski, wakeboard and swim in the surf. If you have back pain, though, vigorous physical activities like these could worsen your discomfort if you’re not careful. Instead, you might consider aquatic therapy, which can be a good alternative for keeping cool. This fun, rehabilitative form of treatment is overseen by a physical therapist and performed in a temperature-controlled, aquatic environment like a swimming pool.

Survive the Philly heat with water exercises to relieve back pain

Working out in a pool can help alleviate back pain in a number of ways. First, the natural buoyancy of your body when submerged in water will help to support its weight as you exercise, making it easier for you to move and enhance your flexibility. Second, water will provide a form of resistance for your movements, which can help you build and maintain strong core muscles that are better equipped to support your spine. Finally, the soothing temperature of the water can help lower your stress level and promote relaxation, both of which are essential to healing. In fact, studies have shown that treatment plans using some forms of aquatic therapy can significantly reduce pain for patients compared to standard therapy regimes.

The spine experts at Laser Spine Institute, who have established an industry-leading minimally invasive spine surgery center located near Philadelphia, PA, often recommend aquatic therapy for patients who have chronic back pain. However, before you try swimming for back pain relief, you should check with your physician to make sure that the activity you are considering is appropriate for you, or if not, to find other coping strategies for living with low back pain.

If you receive a go-ahead from your physician and you decide to try aquatic therapy, it’s best to begin by working with a licensed physical therapist who has specific experience in helping people manage back pain and can develop a customized regimen for you. For instance, some commonly recommended pool therapy exercises that can soothe back pain include:

  • Pool walking — Walking both forward and backward in chest-high water can work your leg muscles with minimal impact on your spine. By adding some light hand weights, you can turn a casual pool stroll into an aquatic version of power walking.
  • Knee-to-chest exercises — Stand in the water with your right shoulder next to the edge of the pool and hold onto the side with your right hand for support. Keeping your right leg slightly bent, bend your left knee and slowly raise it up to your chest, then lower it. Repeat five times and then switch sides.
  • Superman stretch — Keep your arms straight and place both of your hands shoulder width apart on the side of the pool. Extend your legs outward behind you, so that you’re floating in the water. As the water supports your body weight, your spinal bones and muscles will receive a rare, full-extension stretch. To include your neck in the stretch, hold your breath and place your face in the water for a few seconds.
  • Lap swimming — Swimming is an excellent form of low-impact exercise, but if you have back pain it’s especially important to pay close attention to your form. As you swim, keep your head and neck aligned with your spine (it can be helpful to keep your face in the water as much as possible). Begin with the classic breaststroke or backstroke, which involves less spinal hyperextension than strokes that require twisting moves, such as freestyle and butterfly.

Survive the Philly heat with water exercises to relieve back pain

Once you master some basic techniques, you might venture out to one or more of the popular swimming spots in the Philly area to try them out on your own. For instance, the City of Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation operates many public pools, some of which have aquatic programs and indoor swimming facilities that are open year-round. These include the Carousel House on Belmont Avenue, Sayre Morris on Spruce Street, Pickett School Pool on Wayne Avenue and Lincoln Recreation Center in the Great Northeast. For lap swimming, the Drexel Recreation Center in University City is a great place to work out (and you don’t need to be a student to become a member).

If you’ve tried aquatic therapy and other forms of nonsurgical treatment for your chronic back pain but you haven’t met your pain relief goals, contact the experts at Laser Spine Institute. We can help you find out if you’re a candidate for one of our minimally invasive, outpatient procedures. Laser Spine Institute has helped many people from Philadelphia, PA, and across the nation get their lives back.


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