Back Pain in Swimmers

Back Pain in Swimmers

Swimmers around the world struggle with pain too.  According to a study, low back pain affects 30-50% of swimmers, most commonly with breaststroke and butterfly. So, if you swim competitively and experience low back pain, you are not alone.


What leads to low back pain in swimmers?

The majority of swimmers who experience low back pain have developed hypermobility in the lower back (lumbar spine) over time. We naturally have a slight curvature in the lumbar spine, called lordosis.  While some lordosis is normal, swimmers have a tendency to develop excessive lordosis in their low back.  If you neglect the mobility in your mid-back, you may gradually gain more motion from your low back, making it excessively flexible. This can lead to pain.

Factors that lead to low back hypermobility in swimmers:

  • Poor body position in the water
  • Repetitive motion
  • Muscle imbalances in hips, back extensors, and core
  • Swimming movements allow for extreme ranges of motion, especially in breaststroke and butterfly

Pain does not equal damage

Back pain during your breaststroke or butterfly can be an indicator to “pay attention.”  However, this pain does not automatically mean that you have caused harm.  When muscles and other structures are under stress, we may feel pain or discomfort. Consider this a warning sign and change your training and form accordingly.

While it’s best to begin treatment for low back pain early, especially if you swim competitively, you can still reduce or even eliminate your pain by targeting a few key areas. Similar to the prevention ideas above, focus on low back stabilization exercises, improve your core strength with “back-friendly” exercises, and fix any form issues that are contributing to your back pain.

Physical therapy at SOS PHYSIO Rehab

Physical therapists at SOS PHYSIO Rehab also specialize in swimming-related injuries. They will thoroughly assess your low back mobility, analyze your form, and address any issues that may be contributing to your pain.  Our physical therapist will develop an individualized treatment program to help you achieve your specific goals in the safest and most effective way possible.

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