Water Exercises for Managing Back Pain

If you’re experiencing back pain or healing from an injury, exercising in the pool is a safe and effective way to strengthen and lengthen your muscles.

The best part? You don’t have to join a water aerobics class or hire a personal trainer. All you need is a swimming pool and a basic knowledge of how to perform the exercises.

Try This Pool Workout For Increased Strength, Balance, And Mobility

Here in Pembroke Pines, we know that many of you have your own backyard pools or can access one through a local gym. So in this article, we’re providing an overview of everything you need to know about pool exercises, including why they work, minor risks to watch out for, and a list of movements to help you manage your back pain.

Why are Pool Exercises Helpful for Back Pain?


Weak muscles often cause back pain, so exercise plays an important role in managing pain and preventing future injuries. But when you’re dealing with back pain, many exercises can make your pain worse by placing stress on your joints and vertebrae.

This is where water exercise has an advantage. Because of the buoyancy effect of water, there’s less force pressing on your body, so it feels as though you weigh less (if you’ve ever spent time playing with your children in the pool or floating on your back, then you’ve probably experienced this). As a result, exercising in the water places significantly less stress on your back and other joints, while allowing you to complete movements that you might not be able to otherwise.

At the same time, the water also provides friction, which means that even small movements are met with greater resistance than they would be on land. As a result, exercises like walking, which might otherwise feel simple, are more effective in the water, because your muscles are working harder.

Finally, spending time in the water increases your blood flow, which is good for your heart and lungs.

Best Pool Exercises for Back Pain


Exercising in the pool can strengthen the muscles in your abdomen, back, hips, legs, and shoulders, which will allow them to better support your spine and decrease your risk of injury.

Aside from swimming laps, here is a list of exercises to try. For each of these exercises, keep in mind that moving faster will increase the resistance you experience. Start slow and small, and stop right away if you find that your pain is increasing significantly.

Water Walking for Strength and Mobility


Water walking is one of the easiest and most effective ways to work out in the pool, because it engages your whole body. Start in the shallow end and walk until the water reaches chest level, then turn around and repeat.

Make sure you’re taking long strides, avoid walking on your toes, and move your arms like you would if you were walking on land. It’s also important to pay attention to your posture so that you’re engaging your core muscles and not slouching or bending forward.

For a full body workout, complete several laps walking normally, and then switch to walking backwards and sideways.

If you’re struggling with balance or slipping on the floor of the pool, water shoes can provide traction and support. And if you’d like to give yourself an extra challenge, consider using ankle weights to increase your resistance while you walk.

Core and Arm Strengthening Pool Exercises

  1. Bicycle: Rest your elbows on the side of the pool with your legs slightly out in front of you. Move your legs through the water as if you’re riding a bike (up, forward, and back). If you prefer to stay moving, you can rest your arms on a pool noodle and propel yourself through the water with the bicycle motion.
  2. Knee Tucks: Stand in chest deep water and bring your knees to your chest. Make sure you’re maintaining good posture and not dipping your head or shoulders. For extra support, rest your arms on the side of the pool.
  3. Superman Float: Rest your hands on the edge of the pool and slowly extend your body straight out behind you. Be sure to keep your legs straight and don’t stretch beyond what feels comfortable for your back. Hold this position for a few seconds, then return to a standing position and repeat.
  4. Pull Ups: Hold onto the side of the pool while submerging yourself in the water. Then pull yourself up as far as you can. Focus on engaging your core and be sure to stop this exercise if you feel your back starting to hurt more.

Pool Exercises for Strengthening Legs and Hips

  1. Leg Lift: While facing the edge of the pool and holding on to the wall, slowly lift your leg up and out to the side, bringing it as high as you can without turning your ankle or feeling pain. Keep your other leg planted firmly on the floor of the pool. Repeat this movement several times, then switch legs.
  2. Underwater Squats: While standing in the shallow end of the pool, squat down into the water by bending your knees. Focus on sitting back as if you’re in a chair, and make sure you’re engaging your core and keeping your back straight.
  3. Lunges: While standing in the shallow end, take a step forward and bend your back knee until it nearly touches the bottom of the pool. Hold a deep lunge for a few seconds, then step forward with the opposite leg and repeat.
  4. Kickboard Laps: While holding onto a kickboard or pool noodle, float on your stomach and kick to propel yourself across the pool. If you don’t have a flotation device, you can instead hold onto the edge of the pool and kick with your legs out behind you.

Pool Exercises for Balance


Strengthening exercises are important, but don’t forget to work on your balance, also. Better balance will help you avoid falls and other reinjury to your back.

  1. One-Leg Stand: Stand in chest-deep water and balance on one leg. See how long you can comfortably hold the position, and for extra difficulty, try closing your eyes. Then switch legs and repeat.
  2. High Knees: Lift your knee to a 90 degree angle and hold for a few seconds. Then repeat with the opposite knee. Continue the exercise until you’ve walked from the shallow end to chest deep water. Make sure you’re maintaining good posture and keeping your core engaged.

If you’re experiencing back pain and are looking for expert advice and treatment, Dr. Rush is a trusted Pembroke Pines chiropractor who can help. Give us a call today at 954-432-5006 to schedule a consultation

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