How to Relieve Back Pain After Swimming in the Ocean in San Francisco

A swimmer stands on the beach grabbing his shoulder due to back pain from swimming in the ocean.

If you’re a swimmer who spends a lot of time in the ocean, you’ve likely experienced a few aches and pains. While swimming is all-around a great exercise, the ocean is a completely different force of nature from a pool, pond, or lake. You’re up against strong tides and currents that can sometimes push your body to the limits.

That’s why it can be extremely frustrating when you’re sidelined by pain or injury. When you’re swimming in the ocean, you need every muscle operating with full mobility and in the proper sequence to perform. While shoulder injuries are normally associated with swimming, back pain after swimming in the ocean is also very common. 

Moreover, you may be surprised to know that there is a connection between shoulder pain and back pain after swimming. This article will explain why you may be experiencing back pain after swimming, offer some recommendations for preventing it, and detail how working with a chiropractor could eliminate your pain and keep you from missing time on the surf.

Why Do I Have Back Pain After Swimming in the Ocean?

Swimming is a biomechanical process that involves just about every part of the body. When executed properly, swimming strokes can be a beautiful thing to behold.

Central to this movement are the back and the spine since the spine is the body’s main support structure and anchor for all of the extremities. 

The spine is a complex array of bones (vertebrae), ligaments, intervertebral discs, and muscles that inform the body’s ability to move, provide stabilization, and act as the body’s natural shock absorber. Just as complex as the anatomy of the spine is the coordination of movements necessary to provide locomotion, especially for swimmers who are using more than just their legs to move around.

The components of the spine work together to allow important ranges of movement that are necessary for swimming.

Ranges of Motion
FlexionMuscles in the flexion group such as the abdominal muscles pull the spine and body forward and laterally.
ExtensionExtension muscles provide backward movement for the spine and also provide the stability necessary to keep the spine in alignment.
RotationThe muscles in the lower back (lumbar) give the body the ability to twist and rotate.

When you’re swimming, you’re engaged in all three of these types of motion in some capacity. For example, when performing a breaststroke, you are rotating your torso side to side while also relying on flexion and extension to maintain core stability. 

Because swimming involves repetitive movements, it’s not difficult for the individual components of the spine and back to become injured due to overuse. This is especially true if there are issues with form or when they are under more intense strain such as when swimming in the ocean against exogenous forces.

Moving against or with the current requires extreme biomechanical performance from a part of the body with many moving pieces that create a lot of stress on the spine. 

Additionally, the spine has an ideal curvature and alignment that allows it to perform to the best of its ability. When there are issues with the spine’s natural curvature and alignment, you’re much more likely to suffer injuries and experience back pain.

Back Pain Isn’t Just Isolated to the Spine

Because the spine is connected to nearly all movement in the body, other parts and extremities, such as the neck and shoulders, can become injured when there are problems with your spine.

Other areas that become pained from swimming include the following:

  • Neck: Part of the spine is in the neck, and the neck is the only region of the spine with all three ranges of motion. It’s just as involved in swimming motions as the back, arms, and legs and is just as likely to become strained. 
  • Shoulders: Swimmer’s shoulder, rotator cuff strains, and pain in between the shoulder blades are extremely common because the shoulders are what anchor your arms to your back. 
  • Hips: Just as your shoulders attach your arms to your back, the hips secure your legs. When there are issues with movement and stability in the back, your hips can become injured. 

While some injuries may be isolated in cause to the region, complications with your core, and by extension, your spine, can significantly increase the risk of experiencing pain in these regions.

Chiropractic Care for Back Pain After Swimming

If you’re an experienced swimmer who is battling back pain after swimming in the ocean, you’re likely looking for a remedy. Thankfully, chiropractic care could be the truly effective solution that you need to not only eliminate recurring back pain but improve your overall swimming ability by addressing your spinal alignment to ensure that your body is moving properly and no areas are exerting too much or too little force.

Some of the best chiropractic treatments for swimmers include:

Chiropractic Treatment for SwimmersHow it Works
Chiropractic adjustmentThis procedure involves the use of hands or small instruments to apply gentle force to spinal joints, thereby alleviating pressure, improving the range of motion, and restoring spinal alignment so that no body part is doing too much or too little work when you’re swimming.
For example, if your spine has even a slight hunch or too much forward or backward curvature, you may be using your shoulders improperly, which can lead to injury and pain.
Massage therapyWhen issues stem from muscular irregularities, massage therapy and other muscle work, such as myofascial release, can soothe and relax the tissues in the back, shoulders, and hips.
Stabilization exercises  Many of the injuries that can cause back pain are derived from stability issues. Using exercises designed specifically to establish strength and balance in the back, neck, and shoulder muscles can help prevent injuries from recurring.
Chiropractic BioPhysics®Many treatments are reactive in that they address pain as it occurs at its nearest identifiable cause. However, many sources of back pain after swimming are caused by an underlying condition that needs to be addressed for long-term relief and prevention. 

Chiropractic BioPhysics® is a proactive approach to chiropractic care that ensures optimal spinal alignment by identifying the genesis of structural and postural issues so the proper treatments can be applied.

PostureWorks Gets You Back in the Ocean

At PostureWorks in San Francisco, we use Chiropractic BioPhysics® as a baseline to ensure that we are isolating the true cause of back pain after swimming in the ocean. That way, we can formulate the best treatment plan possible, with a diverse array of treatment modalities, for your unique needs. 

We work with many swimmers to resolve their back, shoulder, hip, and neck pain and improve their biomechanics so they can swim better, faster, stronger, and for longer.

Contact us today for more tips on how to relieve back pain after swimming in the ocean or to schedule your appointment with PostureWorks.

Chiropractic BioPhysics®, or CBP, is a deeply researched and results-oriented corrective care technique. CBP-trained chiropractors aim to realign the spine back to health and optimal function. As with all chiropractic care, CBP is conservative, painless, and non-invasive.

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