Back pain, particularly in the lower back, is common, but other places people experience it include the upper back, and on their left and right hand side.
In the majority of cases, the pain isn’t caused by anything serious and will usually get better over time. A GP can examine your back and discuss possible treatments, but there are things you can do to relieve it.
Anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen, can help reduce your backache and speed up recovery.
But a relatively simple activity everyone can do to ease flare ups is swimming, according to Nathanael Bogedain, doctor of Chiropractic Care at ProBack.
Why does plunging into the water provide an instant sense of relief, and why is it recommended for back pain patients?
Dr Bogedain said: “It simply comes down to the fact that movement is good for back pain and that water, thanks to its buoyancy and weightlessness, allows you to perform light resistance and cardiovascular training with very little impact on the spine.
“While you’re pulling your body through the cool water a wide range of muscles, including your core, back and legs, are strengthened. Aside from building beautiful long lean muscles, the resistance training increases spine stability which helps to manage back pain.”
Dr Bogedain also said that swimming is a great cardiovascular workout. So in addition to the usual benefits cardio training, a good workout will enable your body to send more oxygen to sore back muscles, providing temporary relief.
He added: “Finally, thanks to the lightness your body experiences in water, you move more slowly and in different ways – and you’re more likely to twist into positions that will loosen up the joints muscles which contribute to back pain, when you’re swimming.”
But it is important to note that moving the body in unfamiliar ways can also hurt it and for this reason it’s imperative swimmers follow proper form.
Dr Bogedain has seven tips to get the most out of your swimming routine when it comes to relieving and preventing back pain.
Take it slow
Whether you’re swimming a front or back stroke, or simply using a kicking board, it’s imperative that you swim slowly and take care not to overdo it.
He said: “Find a safe resistance point that feels comfortable and if you feel any pain, stop and consult a professional.”
Keep a flat back
When swimming front strokes, especially freestyle, the lower back naturally overextends while the neck is twisting and contorting, says Dr Bogedain.
He added: “To counter injuries, ensure your back is parallel to the floor, and if necessary use a float board to help with this. For some people, simply wearing goggles helps them gain better control of the head and neck, leading to a smoother turning of the head to breath.”
Avoid harsh movements
This means staying away from butterfly stroke. He said: “The sharp harsh movements which will be counterproductive to the healing process. Stick to the strokes which lend themselves to movements which are easier to control.”
Work your shoulders
Dr Bogedain said: “Breaststroke involves extending your arms to the side and then pulling them back in towards your body and this movement together with the resistance provided by the water will help you build stronger shoulder muscles, which contribute towards a healthy back.”
Swim on your back
Backstroke is an excellent stroke for people with back pain, according to Dr Bogedain.
He said: “This is mainly because the back remains flat as opposed to arching, and it’s naturally a slower stroke which will help you gain better control of the movements your body is making.”
Shake it up
Find a stroke that feels comfortable and change up your movement now and then.
He said: “Too much of the same movement could have a negative effect – for example, only swimming backstroke could lead to spinal disc pain. Aim to alternate your strokes and listen to your body. To this point, introduce some light walking to your routine too – variety is good.”
Get a coach
Dr Bogedain advised: “If you’re unsure whether your stroke techniques are helping your back, I’d recommend hiring a coach to help monitor your style and form good habits.”
One of the hardest things to contend with when you have back ache is finding a comfortable sleep position. But there are two recommended positions to try to help you get a good night’s rest.