Banner Health Services  

What exercises can I do in the pool to help my back and joints?

Keith Garrison  

Keith Garrison is a physical therapist at Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.

Question: Are there exercises I can do that won’t flair up my joint and back pains?

Answer: One of the most common injuries that I treat in a pool setting is back pain, both in patients with and without a history of surgery.  Water exercise is relaxing and helps to reduce swelling, muscle tightness and cramping in joints.

There are many exercises that can be performed in the water that are just as beneficial as working out on land, but without the joint pain. 

Simply walking forwards, backwards and sideways will work all of the muscles in your legs at one time without creating pressure and pain on your joints. Squatting is another exercise that can be simple, yet useful, in the water. It works the back, hips, knees and ankles without strain, or the threat of losing your balance.

A lunch tray or cookie sheet is all you really need for a good core (stomach and back muscle) water workout. Stand still in one place and push the tray back and forth, then up and down. You have to use your core muscles to hold yourself in one place without moving your feet. Focus on brining your belly button to your spine as you breathe for an added core workout.   

You don’t have to worry about falling over in the water, or getting stuck in a squat position because the buoyancy helps you stay upright. Concentrate on squeezing your gluteus together for added stability. Imagine you’re holding a million dollar bill in your swim trunks.

Empty detergent bottles filled halfway with water make great substitutes for store-bought water weights. Push them down into the water in front of you and then to the side.  This will work the arms, upper spine, and the mid back. 

The pool is an innovative approach to traditional cardio and weights. Participants won’t feel the joint aches and pressure caused by gravity weighing down on the body. Enjoy yourself as if you were a kid again, but be sure to consult with your physician before starting any new exercise program.

Reviewed August 2010

Page Last Modified: 05/01/2014
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