Swimming with disc pain in the neck

Swimming is one of the best low-impact cardiovascular exercises, and a physical therapist or athletic trainer often prescribes it as part of a course of conservative treatment for herniated or bulging disc pain in the neck.

However, before you begin swimming as a treatment for chronic neck pain, make sure your condition is properly diagnosed by a doctor. Otherwise, you risk injuring your neck further.

Prevention methods for active swimmers

Whether you are a recreational or competitive swimmer, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks to the health of your cervical (upper) spine. The twisting and turning motion used in the water can place excess stress on the spinal discs if strokes are performed incorrectly.

Maintaining proper physical fitness through weight training and other exercises is one of the best ways to avoid injury. Here are a few additional tips on how to avoid a serious neck injury while swimming the standard crawl stroke:

  • Don’t lift your head forward or upward when breathing — turn it to the side, instead
  • Don’t rotate your neck more than 45 degrees when breathing
  • Don’t tuck your chin into your shoulder when breathing
  • Turn your body correctly when breathing to avoid potential neck strain
  • Practice bilateral breathing — breathing while swimming on only the right or left places too much strain on that side

Head, neck and shoulder stability are keys to preventing upper body injuries in the water, whether performing freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, backstroke or executing flip turns.

If you develop neck pain that may be more serious than routine muscle soreness, stay out of the water until you’ve seen your physician.

When you need treatment

If the source of disc pain in your neck is diagnosed as a herniation, physical therapy and pain medication, as well as other conservative treatments, can often be used to manage the symptoms until the condition improves.

If your physician recommends surgery as a treatment option, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how our minimally invasive spine surgery may help you find relief from your chronic neck pain.

Our minimally invasive decompression and stabilization procedures treat a wide range of spine conditions and are often the clinically appropriate first choice over traditional open neck surgery.

Find out if you’re a candidate for our procedures today by contacting Laser Spine Institute and requesting a no-cost MRI review.*