Swimming and Spinal Health

Welcome to the Dog Days of Summer. It is hot and sweltering the best way to beat the heat and still remain active is through water. Water is a fantastic tool for cooling off but more importantly it is a great tool for keeping your spine healthy to prevent back pain or neck pain. Just a few of the benefits include:

When one swims they are exposed to a weight free environment that adds supportive pressure to the joints, this is amazing for neck pain and back pain. Even if you aren’t doing anything in the water but floating and wearing a life jacket it allows for decompression of the joints and relaxation of the skeletal muscles. Most back pain is a combination of muscle tension or spasms and joint dysfunction (subluxations), therefore water can be a perfect addition to coping with low back pain or neck pain, but lets elaborate on that to see what the most affective ways to help are.


Low Back pain is never fun but the good news is that no matter what the cause it should be helped by swimming, wading, floating, or just standing in water. There are different activities to do in the water and which one will be the most beneficial is dependent on your specific concern or needs but any spine specialist or chiropractor should be able to help you figure out which is best. To error on the side of caution floating, wading, and standing in water are all extremely safe, remember that the deeper you go the more weight you take off the spine a.k.a. DECOMPRESS. Swimming is the most complex activity and can offer more benefits but with greater rewards comes greater risk. Before trying any specific stroke you should consult your spine specialist or chiropractor, however generally most strokes and spine conditions go well together. i.e. – If you have disc issues floating or suspending yourself in water with a flotation device is fantastic!!


Neck pain is definitely not as easy to discuss in a general fashion. Neck pain does follow some of the same generalities in that most of the time your neck or even upper back and shoulders are painful or bothering you can bet that it is a combination of of muscle tension or spasms and joint dysfunction (subluxations). Neck pain DOES NOT benefit as much from water since your neck and upper back do not support as much weight and are directly related to your ability to breath it is hard to get the benefits of a weight free environment. Neck pain, upper back pain, and shoulder pain can still benefit from water primarily through gentle movements, water aerobics, or swimming strokes. The safest way to know what will help is to consult your chiropractor or spine specialist. In my opinion the best water activity for neck pain is the front crawl or backstroke since they combine shoulder and inverted neck rotation. NOTE: Front crawl has a high risk factor for neck pain since it requires proper technique and bilateral breathing in order to be truly beneficial.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article and learning more about ways that water can benefit neck pain or back pain. For more specifics about this topic or an issue you are dealing with and water activities that might help schedule an appointment or leave a comment below.

Written by Dr.Broghan J. Reilly M.S., D.C. on July 8th, 2020, anyone is welcome to use this article but please provide backlinks to the original and provide credit to the original author.