Can aquatic therapy relieve back pain?

Aquatic therapy is often used as a conservative treatment option for people with back pain. It incorporates warm water, exercise and whirlpools to relieve pain and pressure on joints and muscles. The therapy can also help improve range of motion and muscle suppleness. Aquatic therapy is gaining acceptance in the medical community as an effective treatment option for patients with chronic back pain.

How does aquatic therapy relieve back pain?

Aquatic therapy combines exercise and hydrotherapy in a personalized program that’s tailored to the individual patient. The goals of aquatic therapy are to:

  • Strengthen muscles (especially core muscles) by using the viscosity of the water as a natural form of resistance
  • Regain mobility by having the patient perform a range of motion that is not possible during land-based activity
  • Decrease joint swelling and improve circulation, which are both effects brought on by the hydrostatic pressure of the water
  • Ease muscle pain via immersion in warm water

Some spinal conditions, such as herniated discs, arthritis of the spine, degenerative disc disease and spondylolisthesis respond well to exercise, yet the pain from these conditions usually severely limits the patient’s movement. Since the body’s natural buoyancy in water reduces the stresses of gravity on the spine, aquatic therapy provides a less painful experience than other forms of physical therapy and exercise.

Who should avoid aquatic therapy?

Aquatic therapy is not for everyone. People with symptoms that may be exacerbated by warm water immersion, such as fever, infection or incontinence, should not participate in aquatic therapy. As with any new therapy or exercise program, be sure to check with your physician before you begin to make sure the program is right for you. Your physician can also refer you to a reputable practitioner in your area.

What to do when conservative treatment is not enough

If conservative therapy programs like aquatic therapy do not relieve your back pain, surgery may be an option. Contact Laser Spine Institute to learn about our minimally invasive procedures and the many advantages they provide over traditional open back surgery.^ If you’re interested in having minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute, ask to receive a free MRI review* to determine whether you could be a candidate.