Swimming is by far one of the most popular activities in Florida. Our state is surrounded by water, and swimming is generally regarded as an excellent recreational activity for people of all ages. As well as being great fun, it’s also an effective way to lose weight, stay healthy, and socialize.
For most people, the benefits of swimming end here. In reality, hitting the pool for a few laps on a regular basis can not only help you with your overall physical fitness, but also provide a number of important benefits offered by no other sport. Here are the most important:
- Works your body without putting stress on your joints. The fitness benefits of a workout underwater are the result of a perfect combination of calorie burning and muscle recruitment. An easy swim can rapidly burn up to 500 calories per hour, while an intense one can burn up to 700. Compared to a workout on land, working out in the water is lower-impact, due to the buoyancy of water, more effective, due to the increased resistance of water by 12-14%, and less strenuous, due to the property of water to disperse heat more efficiently and decrease the chance of overheating.
- Increases muscle tone and strength. Compared to other aerobic exercises, swimming recruits muscles throughout the entire body. The latissimus dorsi (the largest muscle in the back), pulls the arms down and back, the shoulders and pectorals squeeze the arms together in preparation for the next stroke, while the gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and quadriceps handle the force production in the hips and legs.
- Improves range of motion. Because swimming puts the body through a wide range of motions without stressing the ligaments and joints, it allows your body to stay loose and flexible while building muscle strength and tone.
- Improves asthma symptoms. According to several studies, swimming increases lung volume and develops good breathing, being proven an effective non-pharmacological intervention for people suffering from asthma attacks. Regular pool activity can also lead to improvements in asthma severity, snoring, chest deformity, and mouth-breathing.
Active swimmers have better coordination and posture, present a lower risk of coronary heart disease, are less stressed, and live longer lives. They are, unfortunately, also prone to overuse injuries that can affect their shoulder, neck, lower back, and knees.
When Does Swimming Become Dangerous?
Although swimming has a reputation of being a low-impact sport, injuries can nevertheless occur, most often due to demanding workouts or poor stroke mechanics. Overuse is often accompanied by fatigue and failure to adhere to proper stroke techniques, leading to micro-injuries and trauma.
Rotation cuff injuries (swimmer’s shoulder) are the most abundant in active swimmers – 90% of swimmers who end up at the doctor or physiotherapist complain about it. Caused by overuse, glenohumeral instability, rotator cuff weakness, stiff spinal segments, or previous shoulder injury, swimmer’s shoulder is a chronic irritation of the shoulder soft tissues – tendons, muscles, and ligaments. Improper diagnosis and lack of proper treatment can lead to more serious conditions such as rotator cuff tears, bursitis, or ligament and cartilage damage.
The upper body is not, however, the only one affected – lower body injuries abound in those who employ incorrect techniques. In breaststrokers, knee injuries that involve the tendons and ligaments are common, as well as hip pain caused by inflammation of the hip tendons. Those who swim the freestyle stroke may experience neck injuries by not keeping the neck aligned with the spine, while practitioners of certain kicks used in competitive swimming may experience back problems, including lower back disc problems and spondylolysis.
How Can Chiropractic Help?
In moving through the water, it’s essential for swimmers to be able to move and breathe effectively as to not affect their stroke mechanics.
If a swimmer is not able to turn his/her neck properly, their instinct is to rotate their trunk, which causes the arms to drop deeper down into the water and puts stress on the shoulder, ultimately leading to loss of force and, thus, propulsion. A sports chiropractor understands the mechanics of the neck, shoulder, elbows, and wrists, and can successfully reduce imbalances that cause pain and injury down the road.
Also essential in competitive swimming, proper breathing depends on lung expansion without restriction. In the presence of restrictions, the swimmer requires more energy to overcome these, energy that could otherwise be used to gain advantage in the race. A sports chiropractor is able to remove restrictions from the thoracic spine, adjusting the movement of the ribs, the chest, and the upper back, as well as removing pressure on muscles such as latissimus dorsi, the trapezius, and the rotator cuffs.
In most cases of swimming injuries, targeted chiropractic treatment offered by a licensed chiropractor can help patients recover from their injuries faster and return to the water more quickly following an injury. The earlier the symptoms are addressed, the better the response, so make sure to contact your local chiropractor and discuss the best course of treatment for your specific condition.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.