Stiffness, achiness, acute sharp pain. The experience and symptoms can vary among people but back pain is one of the most common medical issues. At any one time, back pain can affect 540 million people around the world.
And new research published in Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that water exercise has incredible therapeutic benefits for those living with back pain.
Data shows that nearly 85 percent of Americans will experience low back pain. And what about chronic low back pain? Nearly a quarter of Americans will struggle with the condition in their lifetime. In addition, back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and the annual cost per patient is $8,386.
But the problem with back pain is more than the numbers. When you live with pain, you struggle to do everyday activities much less the things you love.
Common treatments for low back pain include hot or cold packs, massage, physical therapy, medication, and surgical interventions.
One of the most effective ways to manage low back pain, though, might just be water exercise. The natural buoyancy of water allows your spine-supporting structures to be more flexible so you can safely target your back muscles.
These low back exercises, ideal for a Michael Phelps swim spa, can not only help you alleviate pain but get back to the things you love.
Is water exercise good for back pain?
Water is good for us all but when you have low back pain, it can be your best friend. The water is a safe, soothing environment that allows you to move with less pain.
Aquatic therapy is often incorporated into rehab routines and recommended by physical therapists. It’s a particularly beneficial option for those who find land-based exercise. Thanks to the combination of water’s buoyancy and natural resistance, you can stretch and strengthen muscles while improving balance and joint mobility.
The more you are submerged in water, the less impact you will feel on your joints. For example, when you are in water that is chest deep, the effects of gravity are lessened by 80 percent. A Michael Phelps swim spa, for example, has a water depth over 50 inches. The stress on your joints as you walk or exercise is a fraction of what it is on land.
Researchers share that when “exercises are done in water, the properties of water relieve pain, reduce muscle spasm, increase joint range of motion, strengthen weak muscles, improve circulation, provide resistance and improve balance and coordination.”
Water exercise for low back pain does more than strengthen the core muscles, which helps prevent further injury. The clinical trial published in JAMA in January 2022 found that in people who had chronic low back pain, water exercise improved sleep quality, mental health, and overall quality of life.
Aquatic therapy in a swim spa
People living with chronic low back pain understand how it can limit their mobility. Stiffness, swelling, and general discomfort can make just moving difficult. But for many, they feel instant relief when they enter the water.
But consistent access to water, especially a warm water exercise pool, can be challenging.
Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spas are an alternative to traditional physical therapy pools. Designed to be used year-round, you can get in an aquatic therapy session for low back pain when it’s most convenient.
The propulsion system creates a current of water, ideal for swimming, aqua jogging, and water walking. You can also perform other low back exercises against the current as it provides additional resistance. Using the touchscreen panel, you can adjust the speed of the water current so it matches your fitness level.
Ideal for aquatic therapy, you can heat the water so it’s in the therapeutic range (92 to 94 degrees). The energy-efficient design and high-density foam cover help maintain the water temperature.
Swim spas are more than at-home physical therapy pools. Michael Phelps swim spas combine the benefits of a pool with the therapy of a hot tub. The hydrotherapy seats have a variety of jet arrangements, so you can get the low back massage that you need.
Best water exercise for low back pain
This water exercise program for low back pain focuses on strengthening the core and keeping the spine healthy. In addition, it incorporates movements that will improve balance and coordination.
You can use these exercises to ease muscle tightness and chronic pain from a back injury. By increasing strength and stabilizing the core through these swim spa exercises, your body will be better able to support itself and less prone to back pain.
Walk against the swim spa current, moving your arms as you do when walking on land. Keep your weight on your heels, and avoid walking on your tiptoes. You should stand tall with your back straight and shoulders back. Be sure to engage your abs to avoid leaning too far forward or to the side. Perform this exercise for 1 minute up to 20 minutes, depending on your workout for the day.
Stand sideways with your weight in your heels. Take a side step toward the propulsion system. Be sure to open and close your arms as you move the leg. Return to a standing position. Turn your body to face the other side of the swim spa so that you can use the opposite leg to walk toward the propulsion system. Perform this exercise for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Heel to buttocks walk
Turn the propulsion system at a gentle speed. Stand tall and engage your core. Bring your foot toward your buttocks. Be sure to not arch your lower back. Continue to walk forward against the current, alternating which foot comes toward your behind. Perform this exercise for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Knees to chest
For this exercise, you might need to hold onto the side of the swim spa for support. Bring your right leg up toward your chest, bending at the knee. Lower your leg to the starting position. Complete eight to 10 repetitions and repeat on the other side.
Straight arm pull-downs with kickboard
Hold a kickboard so that the flat side is facing the bottom of the swim spa. Your arms should be extended, with shoulder blades squeezing together and elbows straight. Push the kickboard down into the water so that it comes toward your thighs. Return the kickboard to the surface of the water. Perform 12 to 15 repetitions.
Push/pulls with kickboards
Stand tall in a staggered stance, with one foot out in front. Hold the kickboard with both hands so that the flat side is up against your chest. Alternate the forward leg. Perform 12 to 15 repetitions.
Standing with your core tight and glutes engaged, swing one arm forward as you bring the same leg back. Swing your arm back as you bring the leg forward. Perform 12 to 15 repetitions and repeat on the other side.
Kickboard core rotations
Holding a kickboard between your hands, slowly rotate side to side from the hips. During this exercise, it’s important to stand tall and engage your core. The kickboard should be slightly underwater. Perform 12 to 15 repetitions.
Sit on one of the swim spa steps, keeping your core tight. (Think about pulling your belly button into your spine.) Grip the rowing bars and perform a rowing motion. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, feeling the muscle contraction. Release and repeat. Perform this exercise for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Hold onto the stainless steel bar near the propulsion system of the swim spa. Float your body so that you are floating on the surface of the water. Your torso and legs should be long. Gently kick your legs, keeping your toes pointed and breaking the surface of the water with your heels. Perform this exercise for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
How to buy a swim spa
Are you ready to enjoy the benefits of water exercise, recreation, and relaxation year-round — even in the winter? Having a Master Spas swim spa at home allows you to enjoy the benefits of a pool without the maintenance. You can click here to get more backyard ideas and picture what a stationary swimming pool would look like in your space. Or, contact your local Master Spas retailer to learn more about swim spa ownership. Wondering how much a swim spa costs? You can request a quote here.