Swimming is an excellent form of exercise. Water provides gentle resistance, making it especially ideal for people with joint pain. That said, swimming isn’t without its risks, just like any other sport or physical activity. You use your back quite a lot, both in swimming and in everyday life. So what should you do to protect your back while you swim?
Use Your Core
Properly using your core is one of the most important things you can do to protect your back. Your core includes pretty much everything except your arms, legs, and head. Your abdominal muscles, back muscles, diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, and glutes all work together to support your spine, provided you use them properly. They may directly or indirectly support your spine by relieving pressure from the spine while you swim and keeping it in its proper alignment.
Practice Good Form
Good form is another critical part of protecting your back while you swim. When you use good form while swimming, your spine stays in a more neutral position, which is less strenuous. That’s part of why it’s important to keep your body as level as possible (staying more streamlined and being faster, as a result, doesn’t hurt anything either). Pay particular attention to your arm, shoulder, and neck movements. These movements will put unnecessary pressure on your neck and upper back if they are excessive or exaggerated.
Warm Up and Stretch First
Water’s natural buoyancy goes a long way towards supporting your back, but you’re still working a lot of muscles. Protect your back by warming up and stretching before you start swimming. Warming up gets your blood moving and delivering oxygen to your muscles so they can support your spine the way it needs to be supported. Stretching helps limber up your core muscles, especially those around your spine. That should reduce your risk of straining them while you swim.
Safety should be paramount whenever you swim. That applies to paying attention to water conditions, your physical condition, and keeping your body in good shape. Protecting your back is an important part of that. Stop swimming if you experience spinal pain or discomfort to avoid hurting your back. Figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it. Once you’ve done that, you should be okay to swim again.
Posture has a strong impact on back health. Click here for SwimJim’s recommendations for exercises to do to improve your posture in the water.