Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi
If you’re dealing with chronic low back pain, you may be able to find long-term pain relief by heading to your local swimming pool. According to new research published by JAMA Network Open, not only may aquatic exercise be helpful for combating chronic low back pain, but for some patients, the technique may be more effective than standard physical therapy approaches. We’ve talked about the benefits of aquatic therapy for back pain on this blog in the past, but this new study suggests that water therapy could be more helpful than other techniques like physical therapy or electrical nerve stimulation.
Aquatic Therapy Study
For the study, researchers examined the success of a variety of treatment methods on patients with chronic lumbar spine pain. One group of patients underwent 60-minute aquatic physical therapy exercises twice a week for a period of three months, while the other group underwent 60-minute standard physical therapy sessions twice a week for three months. The standard PT group also underwent electric nerve stimulation and infrared ray thermal therapy, which use electricity and light waves to help stimulate recovery and pain relief.
At the conclusion of three months, participants were polled about their pain. According to the study, about half of study participants who engaged in therapeutic aquatic exercise saw improvement in pain symptoms and physical disability caused by their back pain. That was significantly more than the standard PT group, in which only about one in five experienced similar improvements.
While the results are interesting, it doesn’t mean that you should just jump in a pool and start moving around if you’re dealing with chronic low back pain. For chronic back pain that has lingered for months, your best bet will be to sync up with a specialist who can conduct a comprehensive diagnosis and set you up with an individualized treatment plan. It’s possible that aqua therapy may be in your care plan, but it’s not a perfect solution for all forms of chronic low back pain, so again it speaks to the importance of a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.
With that said, aquatic therapy can be a wonderful option for patients dealing with certain types of back pain, especially if that discomfort makes traditional treatments too uncomfortable. For example, running or even land-based physical therapy exercises may cause too much pain for the individual, but water’s natural buoyancy and the resistance it provides can make movement easier. Flexibility and range of motion exercises become easier when you’re immersed in water, and your body weight doesn’t put as much stress on your spine. For problems like shifted spinal disc or vertebrae issues, taking your PT routine to the pool can be just what the doctor ordered.
So if you’re dealing with back pain and nothing seems to be working, head in for an evaluation by a specialist and see if aquatic therapy may be able to start moving the needle in the right direction. For more information or for help with your low back pain issue, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi and the team at the Midwest Spine & Brain Institute today.