As we mentioned in the beginning, swimming is very popular mainly in summer and it’s often recommended to relieve back pain or if you suffer from scoliosis. Moving while being in water feels very nice, the buoyancy relieves stress on all joints and it is a great place for rehabilitation. However, if we have some bad swim practice habits, the asymmetrical movement in the body causes overexerting one side of the body. This can cause a worsening of back pain or even developing a scoliotic curve. Overexertion of muscle chains always causes some kind of imbalance – this applies also for other sports that require a backbend (for example rhythmic gymnastics or artistic gymnastics), not just swimming. While swimming (the crawl, breaststroke or butterfly) the spine is not in its natural position, the lower back and the neck muscles are overexerted and the body remains hyper-extended. That’s why it is very important to learn proper swim techniques and not to overexert the body on one side.
Swimming in general causes joint hypermobility and spinal hypermobility and that’s one of the biggest risk factors for children who suffer from scoliosis. Hypermobile joints are joints that move beyond the normal range with little effort. In people with joint hypermobility syndrome, ligaments that hold joints together and keep them from moving too much are more loose than usual. Loose ligaments can’t protect the joints as much as they should and this can cause pain. Muscle pain may occur mainly in the areas where muscles need to be strengthened more in order to compensate for loose ligaments. If we stop strengthening those muscles, the joints will certainly become loose. Muscle overexertion can lead to a tendon pain because of the ligaments overexertion. With hypermobile joints there is also an increased risk of injuries (such as dislocations, ligament or muscle tears and inflammation in the joints). Excessive movement can cause partial or complete dislocation.
How should we swim not to harm ourselves? Firstly, it is essential not to overexert our bodies and swim with moderation (approximately 20 – 30 minutes per day). The more we overexert our body by moving asymmetrically, the bigger is the risk of developing a scoliotic curve. Professional swimming (like any other sport played professionally) in long-term perspective is not healthy for our back. Technically speaking any movement (sport) is good, but it needs to be performed with moderation and the asymmetrical movement should be avoided as much as possible. If we are not able to avoid it, we should compensate for this imbalance, for example, by regularly exercising Spiral stabilization.
Secondly, it is very important to know the right swimming technique that won’t overexert our muscles and it won’t cause any imbalance or muscle tension. The crawl or breaststroke can be seen in public swimming pools very often – unfortunately neither of them is good mainly because improper stroke mechanics can lead to pain in the neck or trapezius muscles. Besides that, breathing to both sides during the front crawl stroke is often left out which leads to a muscular imbalance. The healthiest style for our back and spine is definitely the backstroke when the swimming stroke is performed on the back with the arms lifted alternately out of the water in a backward circular motion and the legs extended and kicking. This way the spine doesn’t get into an unnatural position, the muscles are not in tension, the trapezius is not flexed, the movement of our legs and arms is symmetrical and you strengthen your core muscles. The only downside is that you need to be careful not to hit the border of the swimming pool :)