Water Exercise for Back Pain Therapy

Water offers special properties that can make exercising less painful and more fun. If you have a back injury, spinal arthritis, or you are interested in an excellent core strengthener to help prevent back pain, water exercises, also known as aquatic therapy may be just the thing for you.


What is Water Exercise?

Women exercise in a pool.
Water therapy may help you alleviate your back pain. Blend Images/Terry Vine Brand X Picture/Getty Images

Water exercise is used in therapeutic settings to mobilize joints, increase range of motion and to develop balance and stability. If a back injury has short circuited your regular workout routine, a water exercise program might be a good alternative during the healing period. It can help you minimize the inevitable loss of fitness that comes from being sidelined.

Water exercise takes advantage of the unique properties of water that serve to decrease pain while working out. For this reason, it is particularly good for people with arthritis, and others who cannot well tolerate weight-bearing.


Benefits of Water Exercise

A group of people exercise in a pool.
Water exercise can be fun and therapeutic. Photo and Co/Stone/Getty Images

The special properties of water can provide you with excellent benefits if you are trying to heal a back injury, stay fit despite arthritis or vary your normal back exercise routine. Being in water provides a relatively safe environment for working out your muscles and stretching your body. It also allows you to do more than you would on land because it eliminates the constraints imposed by gravity. Water exercise strengthens muscles, decreases pain, increases flexibility, and can be a very fun workout.


Try a Water Exercise Routine

Two women power walk in the water.
Warm up and cool down your water therapy session with walking. Dennis O'Clair/The Image Bank/Getty Images

As with any fitness activity, there are some basic components to a water exercise session.

A water exercise routine should start with a warm up for about 5-10 minutes. One of the easiest things to do to warm up is water walk. Then a series of gradually intensifying strengthening and aerobic exercises should build for about 20-30 minutes, or more if you can handle it.

After that you can cool down (yes, you still need to cool down even though you are in the pool), with more water walking. Here is a very basic routine to get you started.


Intro to Water Exercise Equipment

Water therapy flotation equipment.
Water therapy flotation equipment. BanksPhotos/E+/Getty Images E+

Aquatic equipment comes in many shapes and sizes, and fits onto various parts of the body - hands, waist, feet and more. The purpose of aquatic equipment is to augment the special properties of water, and create further exercise benefits. Some pieces of aquatic equipment will keep you afloat so that you can exercise in the deep end of the pool without sinking. Others will increase the resistance the water provides, giving you a harder work out.


When Not to Exercise in the Water

Water therapy is not for everyone.
Water therapy is not for everyone. Thyeri Bione / EyeEm / Getty Images

Water therapy can provide numerous benefits to people with back pain. This is because it strengthens and stabilizes your lower back, decreases pain and increases joint range-of-motion.

But there are some situations when water exercise is not an appropriate activity. Certain forms of heart disease, history of seizures or an active infection are a few of the yellow caution flags that may indicate sitting it out is your best course of action. If you have a medical condition, including fear of water, please consult this list for more information.

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