Highly Effective Exercise in a Pool for Chronic Back Pain

July 27, 2022

About the Study

Between the ages of 18 and 65, 113 men and women who had been diagnosed with persistent back pain were divided into two groups by the researchers. The other half underwent some type of physical therapy. After the initial 90-day trial period, those who engaged in pool-based exercise displayed more disability alleviation, even months later. These results are in keeping with earlier research that emphasizes the advantages of water exercise. They also reported lower pain levels, which had a knock-on impact on bettering sleep and mood. For instance, a meta-analysis of eight research on the usefulness of this kind of movement was published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. It revealed that it considerably decreases pain and improves physical function.

The advantages of swimming in a pool include reduced load-bearing because of the water's buoyancy, which lessens the force of gravity on the spine, and natural resistance, which makes the muscles work harder than they would otherwise. Exercise in the water also completely removes the risk of falling, which is very important for people with limited mobility.

Importance of Movement

Despite the fact that a recent study compared aquatic treatment to a number of other physical therapy methods, this does not mean you should forgo PT in favor of pool time. Researchers compared gentle movements to PT modalities that emphasized passive relaxation to determine why gentle movement was one of the primary factors contributing to water exercise's effectiveness. The PT group specifically received infrared heat therapy or electrical nerve stimulation for 30 minutes each session.

The aquatic group, on the other hand, adhered to a stricter program, meeting twice weekly for a period of 12 weeks. For instance, they exercised for 40 minutes at 60 to 80 percent of their maximal heart rate after a 10-minute warm-up to increase neuromuscular activation. A 10-minute cool-down followed. Even if you don't have access to an aquatic facility or a therapist that offers aquatic training, you may still imitate the effects by focusing on gentle movement, especially if you create a customized program with a physical therapist or doctor.

"Even a small amount of movement is beneficial when it comes to back pain," says Carol Mack, DPT, CSCS, doctor of physical therapy at CLE Sports PT & Performance in Cleveland. "Many people think back pain can be alleviated by stretching or relaxation, but often, moving in smarter and pain-free ways is more beneficial."

Overcoming Fear of Exercise

Amir Mahajer, DO, assistant professor of orthopedics at Mount Sinai in New York, says it's typical for individuals to be wary of exercise when adding greater movement to a treatment plan for persistent back pain.This is especially true if playing sports may have contributed to the problem. He adds that it is a crucial component of pain management. er with a doctor or physical therapist.

"Maintaining a healthy body mass index, larger muscle mass, flexibility, and mobility will lead to a protected musculoskeletal system," Dr. Mahajer says. "The mainstay of treatment for many orthopedic conditions is a rehabilitation treatment plan with a physician-guided home exercise program at its core."

Keeping motivated is another essential element for optimal back health, he continues. If a person with back pain is willing to participate in their therapy and move gradually and gently to get back on track, they frequently have a lot better success.

"There's often not a single procedure or treatment plan that will ameliorate a patient's back pain in the long run," says Dr. Mahajer. "I always endorse active participation versus passive therapies."

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