Using aquatic exercise to recover from

Lower Back Pain and Surgery

Back Pain Rehabilitation Including Post Spinal Surgery

Lower back pain is a very common condition. The main emerging message from expert Physiotherapists is that controlled exercise is most often the best remedy. The information below outline's the benefits and aims of using hydrotherapy to improve lower back pain, a brief description of spinal anatomy, and some excellent general back pain advice which fits with our treatment ethos. 

Benefits of Hydrotherapy / Aquatic Physiotherapy for Back Rehabilitation 

  • Water Immersion decreases axial loading of the spine.
  • Can aid relaxation and pain relief, immersion can help reduce high muscle tone and can increase spinal muscle flexibility.
  • Effects of buoyancy allows the performance of movements which are normally difficult or impossible on land.
  • By using the unique properties of the water (buoyancy, resistance, flow and turbulence) a graded exercise program can be developed.
  • Viable alternative for those who have difficulties with land based exercises.
  • Safe advancement of exercise (if limited by pain on land).
  • Deep Water exercise allows for an off-loaded and non-painful position while participating in in aerobic conditioning and maintaining fitness.
  • Aerobic deep-water conditioning provides endorphin release, improving mood state.
  • Due to the above points exercising in water is generally easier. This can then help prevent an over protection mindset which may lead to worsening or chronicity of the pain.
  • We treat many different types of spinal surgery at our pool, including Discectomies, Decompressions, Fusions and Vertebroplasty / Kyphoplasty.

I am amazed how brilliant the Aquaphysio has been for me. I suffered with lower back disc problems & sciatica & after 7 sessions I feel so much better, it has started me back to Pilates & Aqua aerobics. The physios have been amazing with my routine. The place is friendly & I felt so comfortable & looked forward to going each week. My physio talked me through my scan results, which I understood much more from him than my doctor had explained. The place is spotlessly clean, great staff! Thank you!


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A patient exercising in the pool who suffers from Low Back Pain


Aims and Goals with Hydrotherapy / Aquatic Physiotherapy

Restore normal spinal movement.
Increase confidence of natural movement.
Restore and Improve spinal strength and stability.
Empower people to exercise and self-manage spinal pain.
Normalise neural mobility.
Improve CV fitness and general deconditioning.
Restore normal global body function.
Return the person to work / sport/ normal activities of general living without over reliance on medical professionals.

Anatomy of the Vertebral Column / Spine

The spinal column is complex structure. It forms a major part of the connection between the upper and lower limbs and provides a base of support for the head. The spine functions as a stability system, but also must be very mobile to allow us to bend, straighten, twist and turn. The 33 bones of the spine are called vertebrae, which protect the spinal cord, and also provide an area for our ribs to attach. The vertebrae are connected by 6 main ligaments and a multitude of muscles. Ligaments and muscles that are involved in stability and movement of the spine are full of nerve endings which help us control our fine movements. The spine is divided up into 5 regions, cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal.

Back Pain Advice

While back pain can be very painful and worrying, it is very common and rarely dangerous. A total of 84% of people worldwide will experience back pain during their lifetime. It is equally common across all age groups; from young too old and doesn't get worse with age. Therefore, it should not be seen as a result of ageing or "wear and tear". Mostly people recover reasonably quickly, and many recover without the need for treatment. Some people experience repeated episodes of back pain which can be distressing, but again these are rarely dangerous. Since people often think they have done damage when they get back pain, it is common for people to go to bed and rest until all pain is gone. However, there is very strong evidence that keeping active and returning to all usual activities gradually, including work and hobbies, is important in aiding recovery. While you may feel relief from rest initially, prolonged rest is unhelpful, and is associated with higher levels of pain, greater disability, and longer absence from work. Surgery is rarely an option for back pain. There are some uncommon back conditions where there is pressure on the nerves that supply the leg and the patient gets leg symptoms such as pain, pins and needles or numbness. For these conditions surgery can help the leg symptoms but it is important to understand that surgery is not always required. Contrary to popular belief, exercise is helpful for back pain, and the best is the type you enjoy. For example, walking, running, cycling, swimming, yoga and pilates all have similar effects for back pain. It is emerging that the amount of exercise you do is more important than the type of exercise. More than 30 minutes per day has the greatest health benefits but any amount you can manage will result in benefit. The benefits of exercise even include reducing the risk of developing back pain. Most importantly, you should do an exercise that you enjoy, that is affordable and easy to access. Feeling stiff and sore after exercise does not indicate damage to your body - it simply reflects your body not being used to the activity. You can start with gentle activity and then increase your levels. Setting personal goals, addressing your relevant factors (lifestyle, health) and engaging in activities you enjoy like exercise, relaxation, socialising with friends and family, are all important for improvement and recovery.  *Above information in italics is a shortened version of an article provided by Dr Mary O'Keeffe (University of Limerick), Dr Derek Griffin (Tralee Physiotherapy Clinic), Dr Kieran O'Sullivan (Aspetar Orthopaedic and Sports Hospital, Doha, Qatar), Professor Peter O'Sullivan (Curtin University, Australia), Professor Chris Maher (The George Institute for Global Health, University of Sydney, Australia.

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