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Does Swimming Reduce Back Spasms?

By Kimberlee Leonard

Back spasms occur when an abnormally tight contraction in a back muscle doesn't relax over time. Spasms might result from overexertion or may be symptomatic of another injury or underlying condition. Swimming is recommended to patients who suffer from back pain but may also lead to spasm in some instances. Talk to your doctor before engaging in a new swimming or other exercise program.

Causes of Spasm

Patients often feel a sudden tightening and sharp pain localized in one area of the back while either twisting, pushing or pulling. Those with a forward-tipping pelvis, tight hamstrings or weak core muscles are at risk for spasm during exertion, according to Cedars-Sinai. If the spasm is not associated with any other underlying condition, the muscles should relax with rest and gentle stretching. However, spasm that continues or worsens suggests a strain, sprain, herniated disc or fracture. Rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medication is the first step in reducing extended spasms. If a spasm doesn't subside within 24 hours and swelling or bruising presents, seek a doctor's diagnosis.

Swimming to Reduce Spasm

You might not be able to swim when your back is in spasm if mobility is restrained extensively; swimming might not be safe in some cases either. However, some water exposure may help relax muscles. Whirlpools and ocean waves might sooth back spasms and provide relief. If you are in deep water or areas with strong currents, make sure you have a buddy to help you remain safe. Swimming in a pool once the spasm subsides will help lengthen and strengthen core muscles to reduce spasm frequency.

Swimming for Overall Health

For those with back problems, exercises that jar and jolt the spine increase spinal compression and can lead to increased symptom frequency. Conditions for which swimming is recommended include a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease. Swimming is a low-impact aerobic activity that allows patients to maintain overall cardiovascular fitness, maintain strength and reduce the impact of jumping or compressing movements found in high-impact aerobics. As the entire body gets stronger, the occurrence of spasms resulting from exertion declines.

Other Considerations

While swimming may or may not have a direct effect on reducing back muscle spasms, there are positive aspects to consider about swimming or any exercise to alleviate back pain. Swimming and other aerobic exercises cause the body to release endorphins, helping to reduce pain levels. The exercise also helps in losing weight or maintaining weight levels and reduces the stress on the spine and spinal muscles, thus reducing the exertion that could lead to spasm. Swimming or other water aerobics done for 20 to 45 minutes three to five times per week is part of a healthy lifestyle.

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