July 12, 2013
Benefits of Aquatic Exercise for Neck and Back Pain
I've been taking it easy and enjoying the summer with my family. Life is wonderful! I have a new grand-daughter who we get to see everyday for a few more weeks while my son and daughter-in-law live here with us before heading out into the real world.
My daughter (#5 child) is leaving on an LDS mission (#4 missionary) to Chile in a few weeks. Preparations are moving along smoothly. I've enjoyed helping her get ready. She just got her flight plans and she is revved up.
After helping downsize my Dad's house, I have been going through all the junk around here. It took me three days to go through my youngest daughter's bedroom, but ahhhhhh! She was awesome about giving stuff away to the Deseret Industries Thrift store so another child could enjoy them. She's sentimental so she did keep her favorites. Her room is so beautiful. My teen daughter caught the bug too and has totally rearranged her room and gotten rid of junk. Love that!
Almost every day I take a dip in the neighborhood pool and that's the real reason for this post. Aquatic exercise has helped my chronic neck and back pain. My pain comes from a herniated disc in the C5 - C6 area, and a bulging disc in L5 - S1 area. I was a swimmer in high school so swimming is not new to me. My journey has been amazing, so I thought I would share.
Last year when I had pain, I had a strong spiritual impression that I should be in the pool. I tried then, but let other family needs get in the way of "Mom's needs." So after my last back spasm episode in April this year, I decided to commit myself - to aquatic therapeutic exercise.
The first week I started was while we were on a vacation in California. I decided to use the hotel pool, but ended up only using the spa and just stretching. That's about all I could do. I wasn't sure what I was doing, but I listened carefully to my body. Wherever it was tight, I gently stretched. Neck, shoulder, arms, hands, waist, pelvis, legs and ankles. Was there any place that wasn't hurting? The movement back and forth in the water was relaxing; soothing. So I did it each morning while on that trip.
The flight home was uncomfortable though, so I told my family I felt I needed to continue working. My husband and daughters are runners, so it was difficult to find time for me to go to the pool so that all of us could get our workouts done.
Eventually I made a schedule for myself so someone would be home while my youngest was still asleep. I'm a morning person, so I get in the water as early as possible. Focusing on being in the pool 6 days a week isn't easy to coordinate, but I've found that consistency is paying off.
I researched goggles, and ordered the best; Kayenne goggles. I found aquatic exercises at the University of Minnesota Duluth from their course ESAT 3642 Therapeutic Exercise. I copied the exercises, cut them into cards, laminated them, hole punched, and put them on a key ring to take with me to the pool. I use a noodle instead of a belt and ball, and it works great. Find the course here and the aquatic therapeutic exercises here. I am no doctor, so I can't say what will work for you.
While researching I found great videos about everyday neck and back exercises to do even while I am driving in the car. And things about good posture while using a computer. Blogging is not helpful exercise, but it is theraputic. :-) Check out some videos from Mark PerrenJones. He has several.
Medicines and oils
I used Ibuprofen for 2 weeks to get the inflammation down. I rarely take it now, and use doTerra PastTense: Tension Blend (about $26) for tight muscles and knots in my neck and back. I have not had a migraine for over 2 months!
I reviewed a book I've had for years to work on that deep down emotional pain that can lead to physical pain. It is always eye opening. I have the older version of "Feelings Buried Alive Never Die," by Karol K. Truman. Not sure what she has written in the newer version, but you can probably find at the library. I am sure there are some great aquatic therapy books, but I didn't get one. There is so much online.
Basically, I get in the pool and tread water to warm up. I where a white runner's hat to keep the sun out of my eyes. I tuck my hair in the hat to keep it from chlorine damage. If I swim laps, I don that lovely cap. Then stretch and exercise. As far as swim strokes, I feel best doing breast stroke, back stroke, and a little freestyle. No butterfly for me. I tread water a lot too, varying how my legs are moving to help my stiff pelvic area. I am much more toned than I used to be. Muscle weighs more than fat, so I've only lost a few pounds so far.
My Beginning Aquatic Workout Schedule
Week 1: 30 min. x 6 days - stretching, treading water, Ibuprofen 2x daily
Week 2: 30 min. x 6 days - stretching, treading water, a few laps breast/back, Ibuprofen 2x daily
Week 3: 45 min. x 6 days - stretching, treading water, 4 laps breast/back/free, Ibuprofen or Bayer Back & Pain as needed
Week 4: 60 min. x 6 days - stretching, treading water, 8 to 10 laps breast/back/free, Ibuprofen or Bayer Back & Pain as needed, doTerra
and so on . . .
Finding a Pool
I mostly use the neighborhood pool as it saves time. However, I did buy a pass to the city pool so I could swim laps early in the morning if I get up. That isn't always easy in the summer when I get to bed later.
Take a look at what a person will pay when they are in pain:
$150 Chiropractor visits
$150 Massage and other doctors
Total $300 (Crazy!)
Swim Equipment Upfront Cost
$10 swim cap
$0 swim suit (had)
$0 board shorts (love Xelosette from Board Short World because they last forever!)
$0 pool noodle (A long, thick one.)
$0 aquatic therapeutic exercises (copied online, see above)
$20 neighborhood association pool 16x mo. or $1.25 ea.
$14 city lap pool 8x mo. or $1.75 ea.
$35 chiropractor 1x mo.
The results? I am mostly pain free and I finally sleep through the night again! The first time I slept through the night, I joyfully told my husband over and over again of that miracle. Then the second night came where I didn't wake to pain. Again I was astounded.
I am not completely healed by any means, but by being consistent I am on my way to a better me. Perhaps things just settled down in my neck and back. Perhaps several priesthood blessings helped. Perhaps this is only for my body.
However, as I move forward to becoming healthier, I am hopeful that I can help my body repair itself. I am a firm believer that our bodies were created to heal themselves, and that listening to promptings from our creator can assist us. Still figuring this out, but I hope by sharing I can help another person feel better. Now, I'm off to the pool to join the ladies of leisure!