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Is Swimming Good for Back Pain? Dive into the Benefits of Swimming

woman swimming on her back in a pool.

When suffering from back pain, the instinctive response may be to rest and avoid physical activity. However, too much rest and too little movement can make the problem worse. If you do not exercise, your muscles are prone to becoming stiffer and weakening over time. Engaging in low-impact exercises such as swimming can help alleviate and prevent back pain. Swimming has many benefits, such as strengthening the muscles, increasing flexibility and circulation and more. These all play vital roles in healing back pain and preventing its recurrence. Read on for why swimming can help manage back pain and what to consider.

Why is swimming good for back pain relief?

  1. Swimming is a low impact exercise.

Swimming is a low impact aerobic activity. Swimming exercises the muscles in the back while placing minimal stress on the spine and joints. The low impact reduces the risk of worsening the existing injury, making swimming a safe and beneficial exercise for relieving back pain. The buoyancy of the water reduces the effects of gravity and supports your body’s weight. It allows for gentle movement and reduces pressure on the back.

  1. Swimming strengthens your muscles.

With back pain, you will likely get stiffness in that area contributing to the pain. Working your muscles will strengthen them and make them more flexible, ultimately counteracting the effects of a stiff back. Swimming engages several muscle groups, including the back muscles, abdominals, and hip stabilizers. These muscles play a vital role in supporting the spine and maintaining proper posture. A good swimming routine will allow you to strengthen these muscles, resulting in improved spinal stability and reduced back pain.

  1. Swimming increases flexibility.

Flexibility means being able to move joints and muscles fully without pain. Increasing flexibility can help lower the risk of injury and improve your muscle balance, function, and posture. These are vital to alleviate back pain and reduce recurrences.

The range of motion required for swimming strokes encourages flexibility in the spine and surrounding muscles. More flexibility helps decrease muscle imbalances, tightness, and tension – which are contributors to back pain.

  1. Swimming improves circulation.

Improving blood circulation throughout the body is beneficial in reducing back pain and supporting the recovery process. Increasing blood flow helps reduce stiffness, relax the muscles, and promote flexibility. Swimming, being an aerobic exercise, improves circulation. Aerobic exercises are one of the best types of activity to get the blood flowing around your body. The enhanced blood flow carries essential nutrients and oxygen to the muscles, promoting healing and reducing inflammation. It results in greater comfort for the painful area.

  1. Swimming is effective for managing weight.

Being overweight or obese is a common cause of back pain, especially in the lower back. When your body carries additional weight, particularly around the midsection, the extra weight pulls your pelvis forward. Additional stress is placed on the back muscles and ligaments, causing more pain. Therefore, it is vital to maintain a healthy weight to lose or keep away any extra weight.

Swimming is an effective calorie burning exercise. Getting into a swimming routine and setting goals can help with weight loss, lighten the load on the spine and relieve back pain.

  1. Swimming promotes relaxation.

Stress can cause tension in the body leading to pains and aches, particularly in the neck, back and shoulders. Stress can also result in back pain, making the pain feel worse. It can lead to tighter muscles and inflammation. Therefore, finding ways to relax is essential when coping with back pain.

Swimming not only helps relieve physical discomfort but also provides psychological benefits. Being in the water has a calming effect on the mind and body. The rhythmic motion of swimming strokes and the continuous movement back and forth can feel meditative. At the same time, swimming encourages you to focus on your breath control, which is a practice in mindfulness and meditation. Mindful breathing calms stress and anxiety, helping you to relax.

The weightlessness and gentle resistance of the water can be great for relaxation, decrease stress levels, and alleviate muscle tension associated with back pain. 

Which swimming stroke is best for back pain?

If you are starting a swim routine to recover from back pain, it is essential to start slowly and gradually. Avoid over-exerting yourself with demanding strokes. You should also seek advice from your doctor or physiotherapist to assess the cause of your back pain before starting any new exercise program. This advice is especially crucial if you have been experiencing back pain for a prolonged period with no signs of improvement. You want to ensure that the swimming strokes you opt for in the pool are suitable.

Professionals often recommend the backstroke as an effective method for easing back pain. It doesn’t require much rotation or extreme arching of your back. This stroke ensures that you keep a neutral spine position. As you swim on your back, the backstroke reduces the strain on the back muscles and benefits from the floating potential. It allows for easy breathing and can feel very relaxing. At the same time, alternating your arm and leg movements whilst swimming provides a gentle workout for the back muscles improving flexibility. While the backstroke is generally risk-free, you should swim using the proper technique to avoid worsening symptoms. The backstroke can be relatively simple to learn and develop, making it an accessible option.

Front crawl (freestyle) can also alleviate back pain. It engages the core and back muscles and prevents undue stress on the lower back. Again, note that an incorrect technique or excessive torso rotation can put more strain on the lower back. Therefore, you should approach this stroke with caution. Ensure that you maintain proper body alignment and avoid too much twisting of the spine.

Avoid hyperextension when swimming, which can occur during strokes that repeatedly jerk the upper spine and neck. Hyperextension occurs during strokes like the front crawl, butterfly, or breaststroke. Overstretching your spine, muscles, ligaments, or tendons can exacerbate your back pain.

Not sure whether you are swimming using the proper technique? A coach or swimming instructor can help you to develop your swimming technique and posture.


Swimming offers several benefits for managing back pain. It is a low-impact exercise that strengthens muscles, increases flexibility, improves circulation, aids in weight management, and promotes relaxation. Swimming helps to reduce back pain, prevent its recurrence, and provides physical and psychological benefits. It is good to consider the swimming strokes you use before starting a routine to avoid aggravating symptoms. The backstroke is often recommended and is generally risk-free, providing you have proper technique.

While research suggests swimming is good for easing back pain, you should consult a doctor or physiotherapist before starting any new exercise program. Seeking professional health advice is especially vital if you have been experiencing back pain for a prolonged period with no improvement. Their guidance will ensure that swimming is suitable for your condition.

Your doctor may also recommend or prescribe painkillers to help you manage the symptoms until your back improves. Trying to gain access to prescriptions can sometimes take a long time, and we understand how difficult it can be to wait in line and collect medication when experiencing health problems. If you need access to prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, or other health products fast, Meds4Healthcare offers a safe and approved service.

See our range of pain relief medications here. 


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