Home - Health - Swimming Strokes and Back Pain: What You Need to Know 

Swimming Strokes and Back Pain: What You Need to Know 

Back Pain

Swimming is often hailed as one of the most beneficial and low-impact exercises, offering a full-body workout without putting excessive stress on the joints. However, choosing the right swimming strokes becomes crucial for individuals dealing with back pain. In this guide, we’ll explore the swimming strokes best suited for those with back pain, address the common concern of experiencing back pain after swimming, provide insights into relieving lower back pain, and offer guidance on the backstroke technique. This comprehensive overview aims to equip you with the knowledge to make swimming a back-friendly exercise. For a deeper understanding of exercises to avoid back pain, refer to “Worst Exercises for Back Pain.”

Which Swimming Stroke is Best for Back Pain?

Swimming is renowned for its ability to provide an effective full-body workout while being gentle on the joints, making it an ideal exercise for individuals with back pain. However, not all swimming strokes are created equal when accommodating back issues.

  • Freestyle (Front Crawl): The freestyle stroke is often considered the best for individuals with back pain. It involves a continuous and rhythmic movement of the arms and legs, promoting a horizontal body position. This position helps reduce strain on the lower back, making it a suitable choice for those seeking a back-friendly swimming experience.
  • Backstroke: As the name suggests, the backstroke involves swimming on your back, which can be advantageous for individuals with back pain. This stroke allows the spine to remain neutral, minimizing stress on the lower back. It’s a great option for those who find the freestyle stroke uncomfortable.
  • Breaststroke: While breaststroke is generally a gentle and easy-to-learn stroke, individuals with back pain should approach it cautiously. The frog-like kick and the whip-like motion of the legs might not suit everyone, potentially causing discomfort in the lower back.
  • Butterfly Stroke: The butterfly stroke, characterized by a dolphin kick and simultaneous arm movement, can be challenging for individuals with back pain. The undulating motion can strain the lower back, making it less favorable for those seeking a back-friendly swimming option.

Is it Normal for Your Back to Hurt After Swimming?

Experiencing back pain after swimming is not necessarily normal and may indicate improper technique, overexertion, or an underlying issue. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Technique: Incorrect swimming techniques, especially improper body alignment or excessive twisting, can contribute to post-swimming back pain. Working with a swimming instructor to refine your form can make a significant difference.
  • Overexertion: Pushing yourself too hard in the pool, especially if you’re new to swimming or returning after a hiatus, can lead to muscle fatigue and back discomfort. Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your swims can help prevent overexertion.
  • Underlying Issues: If back pain persists or is severe, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional. There might be underlying issues that need attention, and a medical assessment can provide valuable insights.

How to Relieve Lower Back Pain?

If you’re experiencing lower back pain, whether it’s associated with swimming or not, consider the following strategies for relief:

  • Rest and Ice: Allow your body time to rest, and apply ice to the affected area to reduce inflammation. Ice packs or cold compresses can be effective in alleviating acute back pain.
  • Stretching: Gentle stretching exercises, particularly those targeting the back and hip muscles, can help relieve tension and improve flexibility. Consult a healthcare professional or a qualified fitness instructor for suitable stretches.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Building strength in the core and back muscles can provide better support for the spine. Incorporate exercises like bridges, pelvic tilts, and bird dogs into your routine.
  • Swimming Rehab: If swimming is part of your fitness routine, consider specialized rehabilitation exercises. These can help address muscle imbalances and enhance overall back health.

How Do You Swim on Your Back?

Swimming on your back, known as the backstroke, is a popular and back-friendly technique. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Floating Position: Start by floating on your back in a horizontal position with your body fully extended.
  • Arm Movement: Move your arms in a circular, alternating fashion. The other component should be by your side as one arm moves overhead in a straight line.
  • Leg Kick: Initiate a flutter kick by moving your legs up and down. Keep your legs straight, and avoid excessive bending at the knees.
  • Breathing: Breathe regularly by turning your head to the side when needed. Coordinate your breathing with the arm movement for a smooth backstroke.
  • Relaxed Neck and Shoulders: Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed to maintain a comfortable and efficient backstroke.

Remember, if you experience any discomfort or pain during the backstroke or any swimming activity, it’s essential to reassess your technique and seek guidance from a swimming instructor or healthcare professional.


Swimming can be a wonderful exercise for individuals with back pain, provided the right strokes are chosen and proper techniques are employed. The freestyle and backstroke are generally considered the most back-friendly options, while caution is advised with breaststroke and butterfly. If you’re experiencing back pain after swimming, addressing technique, considering rest and ice, and incorporating specific stretches and strengthening exercises can contribute to relief. As with any physical activity, listening to your body, seeking professional guidance, and making adjustments to ensure a safe and enjoyable swimming experience is essential. This aligns with the central theme of understanding the nuances of swimming strokes to make them a back-friendly exercise.

Share Article