Water Therapy for Neck and Back Pain

Man in pool doing exercises for muscular recovery

Neck and back pain are two of the most common reasons driving people to seek medical help. Whether your pain is new or you’ve been living with it for months, it can have a significant impact on your ability to perform your normal day-to-day activities, and diminish your quality of life. 

Though there are many treatments available, water therapy is one that has proven to be extremely effective.

There are several different types of water therapy. Depending upon your condition and the pain that you’re feeling, you may get the most benefit from using an underwater treadmill that allows you to exercise while having your body fully supported; underwater massage, which helps relieve tense muscles and joints; and other forms of underwater activities.

Whatever mode of water therapy is chosen, if the body is submerged to the chest there is an equivalent reduction in the stress of the body’s weight of approximately 80%.  If you are experiencing pain this will provide tremendous relief.

Most water therapy is done in heated water, giving the additional benefit of comfort while giving you the opportunity to move your muscles and increase your flexibility and mobility.

Walking backwards and sideways in chest deep water will help relieve pain. It relieves pain because the pressure and weight of the water essentially massages the muscles in soft tissues. The buoyancy of the lungs and abdomen then produce a traction effect on the low back, hips, thighs and legs and gently stretch the tissues.

Many people with low-to-mid back pain can’t stand up straight due to muscle spasms. Exercising in a bent-over position can make nerve and muscle pain worse, but being in water allows people to stand up straight and exercise in a position that maintains that posture once the individual leaves the water.

Exercise is also important because it increases blood circulation. This increased circulation washes away pain chemicals that build up in the muscles and make them sore. Movement also increases lubrication of the muscles and joints, allowing them to move more freely. Ideally, the exercise pool temperature will be around 92° and allow easy access into the water. A walking ramp is ideal. Short steep chair steps are likely to make water therapy difficult.

Freestyle swimming is often a poor choice for people with low and mid back pain as it involves too much kicking. This kicking usually strains back. If one wants to swim, placing a float between the thighs will increase buoyancy, making kicking less necessary.

For people with upper back and neck pain, water depth needs to be at the level of the collarbone. The arms should be extended away from the body and while walking the arms should be rotated in a circular fashion as well as back-and-forth. Handheld Styrofoam floats can help stretch the arms.

People whose pain is stress related often feel it in their upper back, lower neck, and along the full length of their spine. Nerves, muscles, vertebrae and bones impacted by age, injury or strain send shock waves of pain that prevent sleep, keep you from lifting grocery bags or children, performing well at your job, exercising or engaging in social activities.

Water therapy can provide remarkable relief for all of these, reducing the impact of body weight while at the same time providing the ability to strengthen muscles through the water’s resistance.

Read any modern guide to back pain and you are likely to see guidance suggesting that movement is beneficial, but that is more easily said than done when you are in pain. Pursuing movement while in an aquatic environment allows you to build strength and flexibility, moving your muscles without the fear of injury or further pain. Most people who pursue water therapy report immediate relief, whether they are suffering from strains, herniated discs, degenerative conditions or injuries.

Patients who are suffering from the narrowing of the spinal canal known as spinal stenosis generally experience numbness, pain, and a loss of motor control. Though this is a physiological problem, patients are often able to boost their physical abilities through moderate water-based exercise that does not tax the spine with the weight of the body.

Similarly, patients suffering from a herniated disc are able to get the benefits of resistance and weight alleviation while engaging in slow and steady movements meant to add mobility and strength.

Water therapy represents an innovative and effective treatment for patients suffering from chronic neck pain. It can help build strength and flexibility, improve overall health and most importantly can relieve pain and stress on the joints and bones.

For information on all of the pain relieving options we offer, contact us today.

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Are you in pain?

Most patients experiencing pain can be seen by Dr. Callewart or his physician assistant within 24 hours in Dallas, Forney, Rockwall and Addison, Texas.